Game industry pauses events as U.S. reels from George Floyd protests

Don Reisinger

An increasing number of video game developers and publishers are responding to the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

This week, prominent gaming companies including Sony, Naughty Dog, and Electronic Arts, have all shared messages of hope and understanding, as people across the United States protest police violence and promote better treatment for Black Americans. Many of the companies are using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and calling on everyone to do their part to improve the treatment of people of color across the country.

Several companies have made statements on the matter. Here’s a rundown of the developers and publishers who have shared something so far. We’ll continue to update this page as new messages are posted:

Niantic

On June 3, Niantic shared an internal memo from CEO John Hanke pledging a minimum of $5 million from the proceeds of Pokémon Go Fest 2020 ticket sales. It announced the news in a blog post with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag.

“Half of the proceeds donated will be used to fund new projects from Black gaming and AR creators that can live on the Niantic platform, with the ultimate goal of increasing content that represents a more diverse view on the world,” Hanke said. “The other half will go to U.S. nonprofit organizations that are helping local communities rebuild.”

The company also said it will donate $100,000 to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and matching employee donations of up to $50,000.

Niantic will also develop a Diversity and Inclusion training program that has a specific focus on allyship training, as well as “a public stance in support of the Black community and (to) reject white supremacy, racism, and police brutality.”

The Pokémon Company 

Following the announcement from Niantic, The Pokémon Company announced on June 12 that it was also going to be donating $5 million to “nonprofit organizations around the world.”

“In our ongoing commitment to the Black community, this will include organizations supporting education and mentorship opportunities for Black children.”

The company said that it would be sharing a list of charities soon.

EA

EA was supposed to unveil its plans for Madden NFL 21 on June 1, but in light of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests, the company decided against it.

“We stand with our African American/Black community of friends, players, colleagues, and partners,” EA said. “Our immediate attention is on actions we can take to drive change against the unjust treatment and systemic bias that is plaguing the nation and our world.”

EA said it would “find another time to talk football with you.”

On Friday, EA added that it would also postpone its upcoming EA Play Live event to 4 p.m. PT on June 18. The company previously planned to hold the event on June 11.

“With the important conversations taking place and important voices being heard around the world right now, we’re moving our time to come together and play,” EA said in a tweet.

EA has been quiet about its plans for the virtual event, but did say you can expect a look at “games through a live broadcast, community content, and more.”

Naughty Dog

Naughty Dog will release The Last of Us Part II later this month but published a tweet with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

“Now is the time for all to do our part and end anti-Black racism and violence,” Naughty Dog wrote. “Many of us at Naughty Dog are donating to national and local organizations. Please consider donating yourself.”

Riot Games

Riot Games also participated in speaking out against racism by saying that the company’s “hearts are heavy as hope seems lost and trust has been broken.” Riot Games says it “stands in solidarity with the Black community against all acts of injustice, racism, prejudice, and hatred.”

Marvel

Although some companies issued long statements, Marvel’s was quick and to the point: “We stand against racism. We stand for inclusion. We stand with our fellow Black employees, storytellers, creators, and the entire Black community. We must unite and speak out.”

Star Wars

Disney, which owns both Marvel and Star Wars, published the same message above on its Star Wars page.

Sony

Sony was expected to unveil details on its PlayStation 5 on June 4, but the company said in a tweet that it would postpone the event.

“While we understand gamers worldwide are excited to see PS5 games, we do not feel that right now is a time for celebration, and for now, we want to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard.”

Microsoft

Microsoft, which already held its Xbox Series X games unveiling last month, said that it “stands together with our fans, creators, colleagues, friends, and the entire African American & Black Community against systemic racism and injustice.”

Microsoft-owned Mojang Studios, in “unwavering support of the Black community,” is planning to donate all profits from June 19 sales of Minecraft, Minecraft Dungeons, and content on Minecraft Marketplace to the Black Lives Matter Foundation, the Equal Justice Initiative, and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense & Education Fund.

Nintendo

Nintendo of America posted a message to its Twitter account on June 3, saying it “shares the pain felt in the U.S. after the tragic death of George Floyd.” Nintendo said that it rejects “bias, exclusion, oppression, and the violence that leads to these completely unnecessary deaths.”

Take-Two Interactive

Take-Two Interactive shut down all of its online gameplay for two hours on June 4 to remember George Floyd’s legacy and support Black Lives Matter. Grand Theft Auto Online, Red Dead Online, and NBA 2K20 were among the several games with online multiplayer modes shut down on Thursday.

To further support Black Lives Matter, 2K Games has added new shirts for in-game players to wear. The free shirts say “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” and “Say Their Names.”

Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard said in a tweet that it supports “all those who stand against racism and inequality.” The company added that there’s no place for racism and inequality “in our society — or any society. Black lives matter.”

Blizzard

Blizzard had planned to hold an event showcasing its upcoming World of Warcraft: Shadowlands expansion on June 9, but shelved the idea on June 5. The company didn’t say when it would reschedule the event.

“More important voices than ours need to be heard, and now is the time to listen,” Blizzard said in a tweet.

Infinity Ward

In addition to speaking out against racial injustice on Twitter, Infinity Ward also added a new loading screen to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty Warzone. Just before the game loads, the screen displays a message with the headline “Black Lives Matter.”

“Our community is hurting,” the message reads. “The system inequalities our community experiences are once again center stage. Call of Duty and Infinity Ward stand for equality and inclusion. We stand against the racism and injustice our Black community endures. Until change happens and Black Lives Matter, we will never truly be the community we strive to be.”

The message was added to the game after Infinity Ward delayed the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty Warzone Season 4.

Bethesda

Bethesda tweeted the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and said that it stands “united with Black communities to listen and speak up against inequality, oppression, and racism.”

Updated on June 12, 2020: Added Niantic and Pokémon Company pledges.