Game over for Fortnite in China amid online gaming curbs

Epic Games unplugged its Chinese version of Fortnite on Monday, its three-year effort to break into the world’s biggest gaming market derailed by the Communist Party’s crackdown on online addiction and the wider tech sector.

Epic announced two weeks ago that it would be shutting down the Chinese version of the game on November 15, noting that “the Fortnite China beta test has reached its end” and that servers would be shut down.

Chinese gamers said they could no longer access the game on Monday, posting a farewell on social media platform Weibo. A game discussion forum had been viewed 470 million times.

“It’s a shame,” a surfer who gave only her surname Ding told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“I don’t understand why it ended so quickly.”

Another player surnamed Zheng, 24, told AFP he would “cry a little bit first” over the game he played for more than two years in college.

The move ends a long-running test of Fortnite created for China, where content is monitored for excessive violence.

The action-packed, world-building shooter is one of the most popular in the world, with over 350 million users.

Its Chinese test version was released in 2018, but “Fortnite” never received the green light from the government to officially launch and monetize as new game approvals slowed.

The Chinese government has clamped down on the wider tech sector over the past year, citing concerns that tech giants are getting too big and powerful.

Saying that kids are spending too much time playing online games, regulators have also targeted the huge gaming sector with new age and playing time restrictions, while the approval of new titles has slow motion.

In September, hundreds of Chinese video game makers, including Tencent, pledged to better vet their products for “politically harmful” content and impose restrictions on underage gamers, as they sought to comply with the requirements of the government.

Neither Epic nor Chinese gaming and messaging giant Tencent – which owns a stake in the game developer – offered an immediate response to an AFP request for comment.

Beijing’s drive to tighten its control over the economy and businesses has hit a number of industries, with tech companies bearing the brunt.

Epic’s move follows Microsoft’s announcement in October that it was shutting down a China version of its career-focused social network LinkedIn, and Yahoo’s decision earlier this month to pull out. also from the country.

Both cited growing obstacles to doing business in China.

Foreign tech companies have long walked a tightrope in China, forced to comply with strict local laws and government censorship of content.

Google shut down its search engine in China in 2010, denying Beijing’s demand to censor search results.

Reports in 2018 of a plan by Google executives to explore reopening a site in China sparked a backlash from rights groups and Google employees, who warned that a search engine censored research would set a “dangerous precedent”.

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