Tencent has dismissed claims that it will be forced to remove PlayerUnknown’s Battleground titles from its gaming platform in the next couple of months, just weeks after the company’s Steam-rivalling WeGame network had to take down Monster Hunter due to apparent concerns over the game’s content.
A message doing the rounds on social media in China claimed that Tencent had failed to clear the games properly and had already started quietly developing PUBG-style titles to redirect users to when the originals were removed. The huge popularity of PUBG in China, combined with the recent Monster Hunter debacle and Tencent’s ongoing troubles with gaming regulators, meant that the story spread quickly, ultimately compelling Tencent to call it out as “fake news”.
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The story comes at a sensitive time for Tencent’s gaming arm. One of China’s biggest companies, Tencent has lost a fifth of its market value this year, in part beleaguered by the Chinese authorities’ near-halting of the games approval process.
If WeGame were forced to remove PUBG-related products, it would be a huge blow to the platform. The South Korea-developed game is a major phenomenon in China, with the phrase “eat chicken” (a reference to PUBG‘s triumphant “winner winner, chicken dinner” message) having made its way into online slang and PUBG-like imagery being used to sell everything from convenience stores to meal delivery services.
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Tencent has been frustrated in its attempts to roll out new titles in China of late after the relevant government departments in charge of approving the licenses needed to distribute and monetize games undergo personnel reshuffles. The apparent limbo has hit Tencent’s share price, which was also buffeted in August when the Ministry of Education suggested the number of new computer games should be restricted and that there ought to be an age rating system as part of a paper looking at short-sightedness and lack of exercise among China’s youth. Entertainment providers across the country have also been grappling with the authorities’ ongoing crackdown over what it views as “vulgar” and “violent” content.
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