Censorship, economy … understand everything when the Fortnite game is withdrawn from China

DECRYPTION: The very popular Fortnite video game is no longer available in China from Monday, on the deadline set by its US publisher Epic Games. How to explain?

Fortnite is lowering the curtain on China. “On November 15 at 11 AM, we will shut down the game servers and players [en Chine] you will no longer be able to connect, “Epic Games recently announced in a short press release. It’s done: the famous online fighting game is no longer available in the Middle Kingdom. This thunderous recall is pretty final. Logic of a transplant That’s never really took. We explain why.

Unfavorable weather …

The Chinese authorities are particularly demanding on competition and personal data issues, regardless of the business sector. To make matters worse, violent, obscene or politically sensitive content is strictly framed, if not censored. A very difficult business and legal environment.

The field of video games is also under special surveillance in China. In 2000, Beijing had suspended the sale of all consoles due to their alleged negative effects on the “mental health” of young users. This ban was only lifted in … 2015. Since then, video games have been scrutinized before they can be marketed. Only a small number manage to slip away and permanently prevail in the country … which Fortnite has never really accomplished. In addition, the government has not approved any new version of video games for more than 100 days.

Lately the situation has become even more difficult. Last August, communist leaders decided to limit the time that young Chinese (under 18 years of age) spend in front of screens to 3 hours per week. A drastic measure to combat the addictive effect of video games, described as “mental opium” by the authorities. Previously, minors could no longer access online games between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Not economically viable

Epic Games has succeeded in getting the Chinese authorities to accept a modified version of its famous game, “Fortress Night.” Yes, but here it is, it has become so diluted – disappearance of the skulls, whose representation is prohibited, rewriting of the official history (everything is supposed to take place in a training simulation, so that there were no deaths) – that it was almost another play.

Above all, the US firm has never managed to monetize its content, microtransactions being prohibited in the country. However, Fortnite’s income is mainly linked to this system, which allows real money to be exchanged for virtual currency allowing the acquisition of game elements (costumes, items, weapons, etc.). In China, these items could only be obtained by playing, never paying. The presence, among Epic Games shareholders, of the Chinese Internet giant, Tencent, was not enough to reverse the trend.

Despite a huge market, the economic interest of staying in China was therefore very limited for Epic Games, especially considering development costs, which are likely to be high. And this is probably not the only firm in this case. “I think the fact that Chinese market leaders Tencent and NetEase are looking overseas for the next stage of growth in the games industry says a lot about the outlook domestically,” confirms Matthew Kanterman in Bloomberg columns. .

Far from being an isolated case

More generally, the digital giants are breaking their teeth one by one with Chinese regulations. Not in vain Yahoo but also Microsoft recently announced their withdrawal from the country. Same story for LinkedIn, which threw in the towel last October, criticizing a “difficult environment.” Most of the big foreign websites like Google, Facebook or YouTube are blocked by the “great digital wall” in China. Those that remain occupy only niches, or agree to comply with local regulations: this is the case of Bing, Apple, which censors its application store, and LinkedIn, which blocked, until its departure, some profiles.

Read also

  • Video games: Fortnite becomes inaccessible in China
  • Videogames: China drastically limits children’s playtime

Released in 2017, Fortnite quickly became one of the most popular games in the world, with more than 350 million users to its name, more than the population of the United States. Players interact online in hostile environments, in a visually cartoon-like world. If they evolve as a group, each one seeks to be the last to survive.

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