Games Industry Responds to Black Lives Matter Protests

This week’s news cycle has been almost entirely focused on the Black Lives Matter protests happening all over the country and in some cases, the world. As a result, this week’s TPoI will be focused on how major gaming companies have chosen to respond to the events of the week, events that have been either cancelled or delayed as a result, and the ongoing media response to actions taken by major corporations. 

How major players in the gaming industry have responded 

The largest gaming companies in the world almost universally responded to the BLM protests by releasing a statement, making a donation, pledging to make changes, or in some cases, all of the above.  Riot Games acknowledged the current events by posting a statement of solidarity for racial injustice on Twitter, along with donating $1M to The Innocence Project and the ACLU. They also committed to a new objective of deploying $10M toward investments and startup programs founded by minorities in the games community, along with establishing a scholarship fund with Florida A&M. Activision Blizzard posted a tweet supporting those who stand against racism and inequality, along with adding a statement supporting the Black Lives Matter movement to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s loading screens. Xbox blacked out their Twitter logo and joined Microsoft in pledging to amplify Black and African American voices. IGN posted a statement of solidarity and announced a donation to the NAACP defense fund. Ubisoft  posted a similar statement, along with directly including George Floyd’s name in their post. Humble Bundle joined the trend of making a statement on Twitter, along with announcing a $1M fund dedicated to Black games developers. They also announced donations to Race Forward and the NAACP defense fund. 

Delays and cancellations 

In addition to making statements and announcing donations, many gaming companies who had major announcements planned for this week decided to either delay or cancel them. Sony/Playstation indefinitely delayed their “Future of Gaming” event, at which they had planned to make a major announcement about the PS5. Activision Blizzard delayed the launch of both Modern Warfare’s fourth season and Call of Duty: Mobile’s seventh season. They also noted that “now is not the time” to distract from the ongoing efforts toward racial justice in the US. EA was set to launch Madden NFL 21 on June 1, but also indefinitely postponed the announcement in an effort to amplify black voices.  

Press sentiment/reaction

Press sentiment ranged wildly in response to the above announcements. While most press applauded decisions to either make donations or delay events, many were quick to point out the flawed history of several companies in regards to social justice. Sentiment toward Sony’s announcement was neutral to very positive. Outlets reported positively on the delay, like GameSpot’s video explaining why Sony made a good decision or Kotaku’s collection of supportive social media reactions from fans in Japan. The press sentiment toward the Call of Duty delays was neutral to positive, although reporting did contain some negative sentiment toward Activision Blizzard as a company. While TechRadar praises the decision and noted that it could not have been an easy one for the company, a Forbes article includes negative coverage of Activision Blizzard by juxtaposing its Black Lives Matter statement against its banning of Blitzchung, who showed support for the Hong Kong protests in 2019.  Similarly, while press sentiment was mainly neutral to EA’s delay announcement of Madden, reporting contained some negative sentiment toward EA and the Madden brand. Many articles, including coverage from Kotaku, pointed out that in Madden NFL 19, Big Sean’s verse in YG’s song “Big Bank” was censored to remove Colin Kaepernick’s name.