If US President bans Chinese Tencent’s WeChat, the company’s many subsidiaries and investments could also be banned, including some popular games.
Will President Trump stop you from playing Fortnite or League of Legends? Such is the fear of some that Tencent Holdings unexpectedly added to the list of Chinese companies to which the recent decrees apply. The president probably had no intention of at least explicitly depriving players of their favorite games. However, by including Tencent on its list, there is a risk that a large portion of the companies in the Chinese conglomerate or those in which the company invests will be affected.
In fact, the latest decree specifically targets WeChat, a popular messaging app from Tencent. The reasons and restrictions are very similar to the First Decree extending the previous TikTok ban. The document basically states that the US could ban the video-sharing service altogether if a takeover by Microsoft or another company is not completed within 45 days. In particular, it is Section 1 (a) of these two decrees, the wording of which hardly changes, except for the name of the target company, which contains the most important information. “The following actions are prohibited under applicable law for 45 days after the date of this Regulation in the Council: WeChat transactions by any person or property under the jurisdiction of the United States with Tencent Holdings Ltd. (aka Téngxùn Kònggǔ Yǒuxiàn Gōngsī), Shenzhen, China, or a subsidiary of such entity, as specified by the Minister of Commerce (Secretary) under Section 1 (c) of this Ordinance. “
Tencent a gaming mogul
In the case of Tencent, this would mean that customers in the US would be banned from playing games or playing games from Tencent’s subsidiaries. However, it is unclear whether the regulation also prohibits users from working with companies in which Tencent is involved.
The list of game developers Tencent owns or has invested in is long and includes some big names in the industry:
– Riot Games: Tencent owns Riot Games. In 2011, the company bought a 93% stake in Riot Games before acquiring the remaining 7% four years later. In particular, Riot Games is the publisher of the hugely popular League of Legends game. In addition, in April last year, Riot bought Hypixel, the company that runs Minecraft’s servers and reportedly developed a Minecraft competitor.
– Tencent also has a 40% stake in Epic Games, the developer of the Fortnite game, and the Epic Game Store. This investment was made in 2012.
– Tencent still owns up to 11.5% of the shares in Bluehole, the developer of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, also known as PUBG.
– Tencent also owns around 80% of Grinding Gear Games, the developer of Path of Exile.
– In 2019 Tencent acquired a majority stake in Supercell, the developer of the mobile games Clash of Clans and Clash Royale.
PCGamer also notes that Tencent only has a small stake in Frontier Developments (Elite: Dangerous, Planet Zoo) and Discord, the popular chat server. As in the case of TikTok, the Trump administration is concerned about the security of U.S. data. “Like TikTok, WeChat automatically collects a large amount of information about its users,” the decree says. “This data collection could enable the Chinese Communist Party to access personal and confidential information about American users.”
Trump wouldn’t do that … would he?
If, as some rumors suggest, the White House is not planning to target video game subsidiaries like Riot Games, the text of the decree is too vague to be entirely sure. The decree goes on to say: “After 45 days from the date of the appointment, the Minister of Commerce will indicate which transactions are affected by the provisions of subsection (a) of this decree.” In other words, until September 20, we won’t know which Tencent subsidiaries will be affected by the order. The Trump administration is unlikely to ban some of the world’s most popular games and take the risk of angering millions of people. But if that happened it would be the most groundbreaking event Fortnite has ever offered.