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Animal Crossing: New Horizons Banned in China, Possibly Over Player’s Pro-Hong Kong Messages

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has reportedly been banned in China. This may be due to Hong Kong Protest members using the game to share their message.

The Nintendo Switch launched in China in December 2019, despite the nation’s government usually showing a disapproval of video games [1, 2].

Now, PingWest reports that e-commerce platform Taobao informed sellers late on April 9th that Animal Crossing: New Horizons would be banned from sale, starting April 10th. One alleged post made by a seller claimed this would come into effect at 3AM.

PingWest also report that “Screenshots that went viral on social networks claimed that all products related to the title, including physical copies of it, merch, and special edition consoles, are all subject to the ban.”

They also report that Chinese social media WeChat who were “limiting discussions” of the ban, even in groups dedicated to the game. This included some users being banned from said groups.

The reason is speculated to be due to the game’s “pattern making” features. This allows a player to create images using a pallet of colors, which can then be applied to clothes, some furniture, displayed like a painting, or even on the ground.

Bloomberg and US Gamer report that activists and supporters for the Hong Kong Protests are using the game to spread their message.

Joshua Wong (reportedly one of the more prominent figures in the protest) shared the messages he added to the game online, along with others making their own messages of support, or hitting images of pro-China politicians with nets. You can find them below.

Whether this is the reason or not, the Chinese government are likely to frown upon a game that would allow “unapproved” messages from foreigners to be seen by their citizens.

While it would seem a modified version of the game designed to only interact with other Chinese players would seem the most obvious solution, others elements may be disapproved.

This could be anything from the ghost like-character Wisp “mocking the dead and ancestors”, attempting to expand your home seen as approving of capitalism, or even the ability for users to freely express themselves.

If it is due to the involvement of Hong Kong Protest members, it bears comparison to a situation back in October 2019.

Blizzard had been denounced by many gamers over their suspension of pro-Hearthstone player Blitzchung for his support of the Hong Kong protests, firing the casters, and their overall handing of the entire debacle [1, 2, 3]. Even US Senators wrote to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, condemning the decision.

Many at the time wondered if this had been due to Chinese investors having heavy influence over Blizzard, or Blizzard wishing to keep their options in the market open.

Our report revealed that Chinese tech-giant Tencent owned only 5% of Activision Blizzard, along with the entire Asia region only making 13% of the company’s profit in 2018.

The Nintendo Switch coming to China was through Tencent [1, 2]. The company also lost $20 billion USD in 2018 after the Chinese government recommended fewer game approvals.

As Animal Crossing: New Horizons achieved the best opening week for a Nintendo Switch game in Japan, is this ban yet another blow to Tencent? How long will Nintendo, or even Tencent, keep faith in the region?

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is out now on Nintendo Switch. In case you missed it, you can find our review here (we recommend it).

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Ryan Pearson

About

Taking his first steps onto Route 1 and never stopping, Ryan has had a love of RPGs since a young age. Now he's learning to appreciate a wider pallet of genres and challenges.