Tencent has on late Tuesday shut down its hit mobile title “PUBG Mobile” in China, replacing it with an anti-terrorist themed game named “Heping Jingying,” or “Game for Peace.”
Initially, users who logged into “PUBG Mobile” after 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday would receive a pop-up notification telling them that the game’s server is under maintenance, and that they need to update the game.
Hours later, the message changed to an announcement about the open beta of “Game for Peace,” a game that Tencent has kept secret until its approval by the State Administration of Press and Publication (SAPP) in early April.
According to the notification, the game will be available for download on Apple’s App Store and Android app stores in batches after 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
Following the announcement was a thank-you letter from the operations team of “PUBG Mobile” in China, confirming the end of what the team refers to as the “beta” of the title.
Users can update to “Game for Peace” using the existing “PUBG Mobile” client or download directly from app stores. According to a report from media outlet 36Kr, user data from “PUBG Mobile” will be transferred to its more regulation-compliant successor.
Promoted as a “military skills competition game,” “Game for Peace” claims to have enlisted the help of the recruitment center of China’s air force, and is a “tribute to warriors who defend the territorial air space of China.” A screenshot from the game’s beta shows that there is even a recruitment notice for China’s air force on the game’s loading screen.
“Game for Peace” is among the only batch of games that received monetization approval in April. The month saw the number of approved titles plummet from the 170 in March to just 40.
While “PUBG Mobile” has enjoyed worldwide popularity, raking in more than $65 million in March outside China according to analytics firm Sensor Tower, it has been unable to bring in any revenue in China due to the lack of an approval from the SAPP.
Chinese players had been able to access its beta version, which allowed for gameplay but no monetization. Data consultancy firm Analysys estimated “PUBG Mobile” had 115 million monthly active users (MAU) in China in March.
Tencent did not immediately reply to TechNode’s request for comment.
The “PUBG Mobile” successor is also the first game to feature Tencent’s most recent update to its anti-addiction system, which only allows users 16 and older to play the game and limits play time for those under 18 to two hours.
Scrapping “PUBG Mobile” and launching “Game for Peace” is not an optimal move for Tencent, but a necessary decision since the former is never going to be approved, said Liao Xuhua, an analyst with Analysys.
Revenue from “Game for Peace” is almost certainly going to top app stores on both iOS and Android, Liao added. “When ‘Game for Peace’ brings out season passes, it could potentially beat ‘Honour of Kings’ in terms of gross revenue,” he said, referring to a purchasable access in “PUBG Mobile” that unlocks more challenges and rewards.
The changes to “PUBG Mobile” was a top trending topic on microblogging platform Weibo, amassing 380 million views as of Wednesday afternoon. While some users lamented the abrupt shutdown of an entertaining game, others mocked the game’s name and expressed concerns about future in-game balances.
“I gave up ‘Honour of Kings’ and played ‘PUBG Mobile’ for more than a year, and now you tell me it’s just a beta. I’m heartbroken,” (our translation) a Weibo user named “Sylvia_tangtang” commented on a post about the change.
“The name of the [new] game is in line with socialist core values,” (our translation) a Weibo user using the handle, “the skin of lord pilafu” said.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include information about Tencent’s implementation of a new anti-addiction system, comments from an analyst, the official English title, and Weibo user reactions.