Tencent shares in Hong Kong took a beating on Tuesday after Chinese regulators banned the company from selling one of the hottest games – Monster Hunter: World – on its distribution platform, WeGame. The game only recently broke all records to become the biggest Japanese game launch on Steam by surpassing the previous record-holder – Dark Souls 3.
Monster Hunter World – why it is blocked?
A statement on WeGame’s website noted that the game, which launched in China on August 8, has been pulled down because its contents do not comply with the regulatory requirements. The company stated that they have already garnered one million pre-orders for the game, but then the government revoked its license following a substantial number of complaints.
Tencent refrained from talking about the exact nature of the complaints, but a source close to WeGame told Financial Times that the plug was pulled due to bureaucratic squabbling at China’s new media regulator.
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Monster Hunter: World requires players to hunt down and kill monsters such as beasts and dragons. The game has a ‘T’ rating in the U.S., meaning it is suitable for gamers above thirteen years old. Some are speculating that the inappropriate content might have something to do with the corpses in the game.
Back in 2009, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King was also banned for the portrayal of skeletons, but after making a few changes the game was back on the platform. So, we can expect Monster Hunter: World to also return after the required changes.
For the players who bought the game before the announcement, Tencent says that they will get a full refund in five business days, given they apply for it by August 20. In addition to the full refund, players who already bought Monster Hunter: World would also get ¥30 ($4) as a “sorry for the hassle” token. After August 20, players wanting to play the game can continue to do so, but there would be no guarantee the game would continue over time.
As of now, there have been no comments from Tencent beyond the WeGame statement.
A big setback for Tencent
WeGame offers a mix of live streaming, support tools for gamers and developers. Tencent started selling PC and stand-alone games just last year. However, WeGame has gradually made its way to become the country’s biggest PC games distributor with 220 titles for download. Last month, the platform rolled out super hit titles developed overseas such as Monster Hunter: World, Fortnite, NBA 2K Online 2 and so on.
Tencent is keen to launch an international iteration of WeGame in Hong Kong. Such a move will allow it to circumvent the Chinese regulators and compete against the U.S.-based Steam, which has earned itself the honor of being the world’s largest PC gaming platform with over 43 million daily active users.
Tencent was hopeful that titles such as Monster Hunter: World would help the platform to close the gap with the Steam. However, this recent blow would make the company further vulnerable to the rising competition from Steam, which has secured around 20 million Chinese users. Monster Hunter: World was the first game to release simultaneously on both WeGame and Steam.
Not the first time for Tencent
This is not the first time Tencent has found itself at crossroads with China’s gaming authorities. Earlier, the authorities ordered the company to introduce time restrictions for the kids who play Honor of Kings game. The critics believed that the game is quite addictive, and hence, the company had to add in-game spending limits for underage account holders.
Also, reports suggest that Tencent is yet to earn a profit from another popular title PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (PUBG). The company earned the right to publish the title in China in 2017, and rolled over the game on mobile devices this year. However, regulators reportedly restricted it for in-game purchases.
The Chinese government has adopted a stringent approach on approval of the upcoming titles. The State Administration of Radio and Television, the agency overseeing games and other entertainment content, has not issued licenses to any new titles since March 28. As a result, China’s gaming industry is witnessing a sluggish phase with growth slumping to single figures for the first time in a decade.