Taobao has taken down physical copies of Japanese game maker Nintendo’s widely popular video game Animal Crossing from its marketplace.

Why it matters: The game, running on Nintendo’s Switch video game console, has taken the world by storm after the release of its latest in a series, New Horizons, last month—while a global pandemic has forced the world to find entertainment at home.

  • While the Switch game console became officially available in China in December with the help of Chinese online gaming giant Tencent, the popular Animal Crossing series is not available on the console in the country, largely due to China’s strict gaming license policy.
  • Players have turned to e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba’s online marketplace Taobao and second-hand trading platform Xianyu for retail versions of the game imported from overseas. A report by Pingwest on Thursday said that a physical copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizon was priced at RMB 600 (around $85.3) on Taobao, 40% more expensive than its official tag of $59.99.

Details: A Taobao seller of the physical copies of Animal Crossing confirmed to TechNode Friday that Taobao has taken down the items for “violating the site’s rules,” but the platform didn’t give specific reasons. The seller prefers to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the topic.

  • Searches on Taobao with keywords such as the Chinese translations of “Animal Crossing” or “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” yields no results relating to the game on Taobao, according to TechNode’s review.
  • A Chinese game blogger wrote on social media Friday that an attempt made by a Xianyu user to post an item relating to the Animal Crossing game failed. Xianyu said the item is an article of “contraband,” according to a screenshot provided by the blogger.
  • It is unknown why the game was taken down by e-commerce platforms in China, but usually, sales of physical foreign games online are ignored by regulators. A representative of Alibaba didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment on Friday.

Context: A few days before the removal of the game, Bloomberg reported that pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have started to post anti-government posters on the island life simulation game. Users can visit other players’ virtual islands in the game using the Nintendo Network.

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons sold more than 2.6 million physical copies in its first 10 days on sale in Japan alone, according to sales figures by Japanese digital game magazine Famitsu.
  • The game has also propelled Switch hardware sales to new heights, according to The Verge. Sales of the game console reached 392,000 in the week the game was released, the highest seven-day total ever for the Switch.
  • In February, popular infection simulation game Plague Inc. was removed from Chinese app stores as the Covid-19 outbreak intensified in the country.

Wei Sheng is a Beijing-based reporter covering hardware, smartphone, and telecommunications, along with regulations and policies related to the China tech scene. Before joining TechNode, he wrote about...