On Thursday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order with the intention of banning the popular Chinese chat app WeChat. However, the executive order also took aim at WeChat’s parent company Tencent, which owns large stakes in many major video game companies and franchises, including Riot Games and Epic Games, leaving their future unclear. However, the White House has since clarified that it won’t be targeting video game companies with ties to Tencent with this order.
The confusion over the president’s executive order — where President Trump also mentions his executive order banning TikTok — comes in Section 1. (a), where the order outlines the specific things that it can affect:
The following actions shall be prohibited beginning 45 days after the date of this order, to the extent permitted under applicable law: any transaction that is related to WeChat by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, with Tencent Holdings Ltd. (a.k.a. Téngxùn Kònggǔ Yǒuxiàn Gōngsī), Shenzhen, China, or any subsidiary of that entity, as identified by the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary) under section 1(c) of this order.
It’s easy to see how the order’s language, which directly mentions both Tencent Holdings and its subsidiaries, could raise serious questions about the way that video games will fit into this. Tencent represents one of the most important investors in the video game industry, both in China and in the rest of the world.
Tencent owns a majority stake in companies like Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends and Valorant; Supercell, the developers of Clash of Clans and Clash Royale; Grinding Gear Games, the developers of Path of Exile. Tencent also own a minority stake in companies like Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite and the Unreal Engine; Ubisoft; Activision/Blizzard; Bluehole and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds; PlatinumGames. But those aren’t the only areas that Tencent is a major player in. The Chinese company is also an investor in Discord, Reddit, and even Spotify, which based on the interpretation of the executive order all could have been affected. Nintendo also partnered with Tencent in order to bring the Switch to China. Polygon has reached out to Epic Games and Riot Games for comment on the executive order.
According to the LA Times, the White House later “clarified that the executive order concerning WeChat only blocks transactions related to WeChat, not those involving other Tencent holdings.” The ban itself won’t go into effect until 45 days from Aug. 6, at which time the Secretary of Commerce will outline exactly what is and is not affected by the executive order.
Even if the ban itself doesn’t directly target or affect game companies at all, it does still have a chance to impact them indirectly. Tencent itself has already felt the effects of the order; its stock fell by more than 10% in Hong Kong on Friday, after the ban was announced. However, when it was clarified that the ban was specific to WeChat, the stock recovered slightly, but still ended down around 5%, a loss of around $34.6 billion, according to Bloomberg.