The game’s official Chinese website states new accounts cannot be made from November 1st, and the servers for the “test” will close November 15th. PC Gamer reports the Chinese version was different to its western counterpart; with premium currency unlocked only by playing, and not bought with real money. It is unclear if the game had been fully released if this would have changed.
Other differences included how multiple players could win the battle royale, rather than just one player. The game also featured two different health bars for damage from the encroaching storm, and from other players and explosions.
The main factor may be the Chinese government’s crackdown on online games. They announced a ban in late August from children playing online video games Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, weekends, and public holidays they can only play for one hour; between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
It is not hard to imagine that the game would have dramatically less hours played in China, and dramatically more competition for such a small time slot. As of November 2019, under 18s were previously limited to 90 minutes per-day, with three hours at weekends and holidays.
The law was designed to curb video game addiction (also known as gaming disorder), along with preventing online games from distracting them from school, family responsibilities, and causing other societal ills. Chinese tech giant Tencent recently lost almost $60 billion USD in stock value; after Chinese state media’s Economic Information Daily described online games as “spiritual opium.”
The Chinese Government also banned under 16s from live-streaming, along with other gaming and internet restrictions as part of their 10-year plan on children’s development.
New regulations from the Chinese government on a game’s content also included a ban on post-apocalyptic settings, loot boxes, gacha, games featuring any military or nation other than China in a favorable light, positive depictions of evil mythological creatures, defeating gods, and more.
The wide range of pop-culture and other media IP that have been included in Fortnite could see it be nigh-impossible without extensive censorship on many costumes. The Chinese government may also be seeking to restrict US cultural influence on China. As such, they would likely never permit the live concerts, US movie tie-ins, and even US historical experiences to be in the Chinese version of the game.
Whether the order came from on-high, or Epic Games cut their losses; it seems at least one US developer has decided trying to appeal to a Chinese audience is not worth it. Will online games already released in China pull the plug? We will keep you informed as we learn more.
Fortnite is available on Windows PC (via the Epic Games Store), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Android.