Chinese media regulators announced on Friday that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), the world’s most popular computer game of the moment, will probably not receive a publishing license in China. Soon after, however, China’s smartphone giant Xiaomi held a launch event for a new PUBG-like feature for their mobile game Xiaomi Guns (小米枪战).
The problem with PUBG, according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT), is that it’s too bloody and too violent (in Chinese). “Similar to ancient Rome’s gladiator battles, it severely deviates from China’s core socialist values, as well as Chinese traditions and morality, thus leaving a negative impact on the mind-body health of teenage consumers,” the body’s statement said. As such Chinese media regulators advise gaming companies to avoid developing games or related products such as live streaming platforms or e-sports which carry that ideology.
Published by South Korea’s Bluehold Inc., PUBG’s concept is similar to the young-adult dystopian fiction The Hunger Games, in which players are stranded on a remote island where they were told to scavenge for weapons and kill other players to win. The game has sold nearly 18 million copies globally since its release in March as of this writing, according to data from SteamStats, the data service for online PC gaming platform Steam.
Although PUBG doesn’t currently have a local publisher in China, 41.62% of its players have come from China—the largest player base—by October 17th. Meanwhile, Chinese players have complained about high server lag as Bluehole struggles to deal with the influx. Tencent, China’s social media giant who is also a top gaming publisher globally, was in discussion to purchase PUBG’s licensing rights in China.
Eyeing PUBG’s massive success, Chinese publishers have flocked to make PUBG-like games, one of which is Xiaomi Guns. The game did not have a PUBG experience until October 18, when Xiaomi’s founder and CEO Lei Jun announced the soon-to-come popular feature through his Weibo account. The launch event on Monday signals that Xiaomi has gotten a nod from the content regulators, a Chinese PUBG expert told TechNode. They prefer to remain anonymous.
“It’s not impossible for PUBG-like games to get government approval down the road, if they modify the content according to the official rules, or if they have close ties with the content regulators,” the expert added. “The reason why Xiaomi Guns is able to release the PUBG feature is likely because the game was approved before carrying the now controversial feature.”
Nasdaq-listed NetEase, the second largest gaming publisher after Tencent in China, issued a notice (in Chinese) on Monday that it will adjust its content in accordance with the government rulings over PUBG-like games as soon as possible. NetEase was the major force in helping to get World of Warcraft back online in China in 2010 by taking “necessary corrective measures” to address the government’s issue with the monster-fighting game.