After a hugely-hyped roll out that had seen over 1 million pre-orders, Tencent has removed fantasy-themed RPG Monster Hunter: World from its Steam-rivalling platform WeGame just days after release. Floods of complaints to government regulators apparently sparked the surprise move.
Launched together with Capcom in China on August 8 (one day earlier than the rest of the world), the PC version of Monster Hunter: World was meant to be one of the flagship titles on Tencent’s WeGame platform, the Chinese tech giant’s attempt to provide an alternative to global distribution service Steam. But all sales of the game were halted on Monday morning and a statement issued offering refunds after WeGame said the game did “not fully comply with relevant regulatory and policy requirements”.
The removal of the latest instalment in the hugely popular Monster Hunter series followed “a large number of complaints” and happened at “the request of the authorities” according to the statement.
The statement promised that WeGame would “seriously observe the relevant rules” and “change internal processes” going forward, but there was no mention of whether they’ll attempt a relaunch of Monster Hunter: World, a game which has sold more than 8 million copies on the PS4 and Xbox One across the globe.
The game’s launch got off to a “rocky start” internationally with numerous complaints that it failed to boot up or contained errors when it did. The gaming market in China has also been grappling with issues related to the authorities’ “clean up” operation targeting apparently “inappropriate” content. However, some commentators on Weibo were quick to point the finger at China-based Steam fans, rather than gameplay or genuine content issues, as being responsible for the reports to the authorities.
In June, Steam announced plans to partner with Shanghai firm Perfect World for an official China launch of their distribution platform. The announcement was met with mixed reactions from Chinese gamers, with some welcoming the move to make Steam legitimate in the country and others bemoaning that it would invite censorship. Until recently, Steam has been available in an unofficial capacity in China, meaning it’s not been subjected to the same controls as other gaming platforms in the country.
However, while some on Weibo are blaming Steam users for the authorities receiving complaints, others believe it is merely part of the broader “clean up” of online content currently taking place within the country.
Meanwhile, Steam’s release of the game remains available internationally.
Update: Some online commenters have now turned their fire on NetEase, the Chinese platform behind The Soul of Hunter, which bears something of a resemblance to Monster Hunter (watch below). They’ve alleged that NetEase was responsible for the reports of “inappropriate content” in the hopes that Tencent would have to remove Monster Hunter: World, thus weakening the competition against their own title.
The accusations prompted NetEase CEO Ding Lei to issue a response on Monday: “This reporting, I can clearly tell everyone, is not a NetEase movement. […] Unexpectedly in a short period of time there’s been a large number of “dark PR” and “NetEase reported” accusations that have done serious damage to our company. We will not tolerate this.”
Regardless of who was responsible for Tencent having to halt sales of the game, Monster Hunter: World‘s return in China continues to look unlikely.
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