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Epic has lifted the lockdown in Indonesia after registering with the government

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, at the company's headquarters in Cary, NC on July 17, 2019.

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, at the company’s headquarters in Cary, NC on July 17, 2019.

NYT

Epic Games was briefly banned from the world’s fourth-most populous country but on Tuesday complied with Indonesia’s requirement to register with its Ministry of Information.

The Cary-based Fortnite creator has complied with an Indonesian law that some internet rights groups have called invasive.

For more than a week, the archipelago nation of Indonesia has denied its 270 million citizens access to Epic’s distribution platform, the Epic Games Store, because the company failed to comply with an Indonesian law requiring foreign private operators of electronic systems to register with the government to register .

Southeast Asia-based Indonesia had given companies until July 29 to register with its Ministry of Communications and Information, known as KOMINFO, after which it began blocking unregistered websites. Tech giants like Google, Apple and Meta (which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) each registered days before the deadline, while others like Yahoo and PayPal registered and unblocked their websites after the deadline.

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Cary-based Epic Games has seen its rating skyrocket since releasing the Fortnite video game. Courtesy of Epic Games

Steam, a rival of the Epic Games Store, also registered with KOMINFO after the deadline and lifted its ban a few days ago.

On August 8, KOMINFO spokesman Gok Suan Simanungkalit confirmed to The News & Observer that Epic Games is still banned in the country for failing to register. But on Tuesday, the day after Epic employees returned from a two-week company-wide summer break, the gaming company registered the Epic Games Store with KOMINFO.

Internet rights groups have blasted Indonesia’s registration law, which could force companies to disclose user data and remove content the government sees as a “danger to public order”. According to the nonprofit Freedom House, which ranks countries based on their access to civil liberties and political rights, Indonesia is rated “partially free” when it comes to democracy and internet freedom.

Epic Games did not respond to multiple emails from The News & Observer asking why it had not registered earlier and what it thought of Indonesia’s registration requirement.

The gaming titan, reportedly worth $31.5 billion, has expressed support for political speeches in recent years. In 2019, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney publicly vowed to protect the political speech of Hong Kong players protesting against the Chinese government, posting on his personal Twitter account: “Epic supports the rights of Fortnite players and -Creators to talk about politics and people’s rights.”

And the company has shown a willingness to fight after suing both Apple and Google in 2020 over alleged antitrust violations.

Frustrated Fortnite fans

Since Sweeney founded the company in 1991, Epic has had a string of successes, none greater than Fortnite 2017. At any given time, an estimated three million people around the world are playing it. Fortnite is free, but players make in-game purchases to upgrade things like their outfits, weapons, and even their dance moves. Due to the game’s huge popularity, Epic launched its own distribution platform, the Epic Games Store.

The Epic Games Store offers more than Fortnite. Through the platform, gamers can access games developed by Epic as well as others that Epic owns the distribution rights to.

In Indonesia, many players had taken to Twitter to express their frustration with the suspension, pointing fingers at both Epic and their government. On Tuesday, some celebrated the lifting of the ban.

But it may never have been a total blockage: many in Indonesia had shared online that they had circumvented their government’s restriction by accessing the Epic Games Store via a virtual private network, or VPN.

This story was produced with the financial support of a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of a grant program for independent journalists. The N&O retains full editorial control of the work.

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This story was originally published Aug 9, 2022 12:39 p.m.

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Brian Gordon is the Innovate Raleigh reporter for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He writes about jobs, startups, and all the big tech things that are changing the triangle.

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