Epic Games disconnected its Chinese version of Fortnite on Monday, as its three-year efforts to break into the world’s largest gaming market were derailed by the Communist Party’s crackdown on online addiction and the wider tech sector. .
Epic had announced two weeks ago that it would shut down the Chinese version of the game on November 15, noting that “the Fortnite China beta test has ended” and that the servers will be shut down.
Chinese players said they could no longer access the game on Monday, bidding farewell on the Weibo social media platform. A gaming discussion board had been viewed 470 million times.
“It’s a shame,” said Agence France-Presse (AFP) an internet user who only gave her last name Ding.
“I don’t understand why it ended so quickly.”
Another player by the name of Zheng, 24, told AFP he was going to “cry a little bit first” over the game he had played for more than two years while in college. .
The move ends a long-standing Fortnite test created for China, where content is screened 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 be officially launched and monetized as approvals for new games slowed.
The Chinese government has taken a broad crackdown 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 industry with new age and play time restrictions, while the approval of new titles has slow motion.
In September, hundreds of Chinese video game makers, including Tencent, pledged to better control their products for “politically harmful” content and impose restrictions on underage gamers as they sought to comply with government demands.
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 sectors, with tech companies paying the price.
Epic’s move follows Microsoft’s October announcement of 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, refusing Beijing’s demand to censor search results.
Reports in 2018 of a plan by Google executives to explore the reopening of a site in China sparked a backlash from advocacy groups and Google employees, who warned that a censored search engine would create a “dangerous precedent”.