- The biggest game company in the world, Tencent, is pulling the hit battle-royale game “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” from its home market: China.
- Tencent has been unable to charge money for the game while it goes through regulatory approval; it was freely available in a “testing phase.”
- In place of “PUBG,” Tencent is releasing a game named “Game for Peace” – a game that looks and plays very similarly to “PUBG” but is thematically focused on Chinese patriotism.
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SHANGHAI/HONG KONG – Tencent on Wednesday said it would stop offering in China its test version of the global best-selling video game “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” having waited in vain for over a year to gain regulatory approval to begin sales.
The Chinese video gaming leader said in November 2017 that it would bring the gory game to China, and it gave it a socialist makeover to meet stringent government rules when it informally launched the title the following February.
The South Korean-made game, known as “PUBG,” was named by the global game distributor Steam as one of its highest-grossing titles of 2018, and industry insiders estimated Tencent could rake in revenue of $1 billion if it were allowed to earn income from it.
“The testing phase for ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ officially ends on May 8. We thank everyone for the support they have given us so far,” showed a post on the game’s official account on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.
- PUBG Corp.
Tencent did not immediately respond to requests for further comment from Reuters.
The Weibo post also announced the Wednesday launch of a similar Tencent-licensed title, “Game for Peace,” which obtained monetization approval from authorities in April.
Jefferies analysts said the earlier-than-expected launch of the tactical shooting game, which is a tribute to China’s air force, boded well for Tencent’s gaming growth in the second half of this year.
“Despite the simultaneous shut-down of ‘PUBG,’ direct migration of user data and purchases should lower churn risk,” they said in a research note, referring to stemming the loss of users by shifting “PUBG” data to “Game for Peace.”
The topic “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is gone” was the most viewed subject on Weibo on Wednesday, with over 300 million clicks and close to 90,000 posts.
“I was scared to death,” one Weibo user said of his feelings when he realized that “PUBG” had been shut down in China, saying he had spent many nights to reach a certain level.
“But I didn’t expect that once I updated it to ‘Game of Peace’ it returned me back to the same level. The game changed its name and became very socialist to gain approval.”
Others commented on the absence of gore, which regulators have all but outlawed in new titles following a public outcry over perceived excess in video games.
“I’m going to die of laughter,” another Weibo user said. “When you shoot people, they don’t bleed, and the dead get up and wave goodbye!”
One Twitter user captured the wave in action:
They changed PUBG Mobile in China to comply with stricter game violence laws. Now when you 'kill' someone they give you a loot box and wave goodbye and honestly it's just so hilariously wholesome pic.twitter.com/Q5xkrtM0MA
— Svend Joscelyne (@SvendJoscelyne) May 8, 2019
(Reporting by Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI and Sijia Jiang in HONG KONG; Editing by Christopher Cushing)