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“Genshin Impact” Becomes Huge Hit as Gamers Suspect Censors Over Pokémon Name Changes

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Genshin ImpactCall of Duty: Mobile, Steam and Pokémon are all making headlines this week as China gains influence in international gaming markets.

China is making a bigger name for itself in the international gaming community, and Genshin Impact is the most recent success story. Launched less than a month ago, the free-to-play fantasy game from Shanghai-based developer Mihoyo has found significant success overseas, making major revenue through in-game micro purchases.

In its first week, Genshin Impact generated over 60 million USD on mobile to become the second highest-grossing mobile game in the world. Initially the anime-styled open world title faced criticism over similarities to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But it’s nevertheless gone on to become hugely popular in Japanese and US markets, raking in 20 million USD in the latter.

Tencent’s Call of Duty: Mobile is another international hit, generating 500 million USD in its first year to become the 22nd most profitable mobile game in the world. Now, the title has finally been approved for a China release — one year on from its international launch — where it’s already collected 50 million pre-registered users.

Part of the China launch campaign, unexpectedly, involves the king of Mandopop, Jay Chou.

jay-chou-call-of-duty

Mandopop legend Jay Chou has also appeared in Hollywood films The Green Hornet and Now You See Me 2

Chou as a celebrity endorsement comes as part of Tencent’s effort to localize the inherently American franchise. The extra push comes after Call of Duty: Mobile managed to beat PUBG Mobile‘s time to the 250 million download mark, leading experts to predict that it could become the world’s biggest mobile title after its China release.

The growing success of made in China gaming titles comes as the launch of Steam in China appears to be edging closer. And we’re starting to see what reality will look like for the world’s largest PC gaming distributor in China’s notoriously tough ecosystem.

Steam has already operated in China for years, but in a legal grey area. When it was announced that an official, highly-regulated Steam was in development, the news was met with outcry from some of China’s gamers, as well as from Chinese developers who had racked up some big wins on the platform.

Related:

Steam China is Finally Here – But Gamers Aren’t Happy

The kind of censorship Steam titles may have to endure has been on show this week after fans suspected the hand of the authorities in a number of name changes for Pokémon characters.

Pangoro, originally translated into a name that literally means “Hooligan Panda,” will now be known as “Domineering Panda” instead. Similarly, Toxel’s name has seen the character du 毒 (meaning toxic or drugs) removed, while Runerigus and Cofagrigus have had direct references to death switched out for more vague terms of “loss.” Completing the latest round of changes — announced on Pokémon’s official Weibo account and immediately enacted in an update to games — Nickit and Thievul saw references to theft removed from their Chinese names.

The alterations have been met with eye-rolls and anger among fans, with one commenter on social media calling the changes “insane” and another sarcastically suggesting that the offending words also be removed from school textbooks.

Related:

The 4 Pokemon Games You Haven’t Played Yet

As China’s gaming industry continues to expand beyond its borders, such collisions and constrictions for international titles are seemingly increasingly likely.

Chloe Yorke
    Chloe was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Shanghai and San Francisco. She is currently studying Chinese at Durham University in the UK and is passionate about Chinese art and culture.