Chinese regulators have ordered the halt of sales of “Monster Hunter: World” on the WeGame PC-gaming platform of China’s Tencent. Regulators said that they had received a large number of complaints about the fantasy game that it had licensed from Japan’s Capcom.
Tencent had pre-sold over 1 million copies of the game at some $43 per unit. In a statement on its website WeGame said that it would refund users without conditions.
The move sent Tencent shares into a spin. On Tuesday, the Hong Kong-traded stock fell by 3.43% to HK$348.60, wiping $16 billion off the value of the conglomerate.
The scale of that fall is clearly out of proportion to the specific loss from “Monster Hunter: World” alone. But it may point to ongoing problems with regulation of the sector.
It has been reported in local media that the State Administration of Radio and Television, which oversees the games sector in China, has not given approval to any new games since the end of March. That was around the time that SARFT was shifted direct control by the Communist Party’s Propaganda department.
A similar political and decision-making hiatus has affected the feature film sector. Film executives have told Variety that unusually large numbers of films are currently awaiting censorship approval.
In the games business the number of new releases has slowed and industry-wide revenue growth slowed to a reported 5% in the first half of the year. As China’s largest games distributor, Tencent is clearly affected. Just how much may be revealed on Wednesday, when Tencent unveils its second quarter financial data.
Tencent was previously forced by regulators to put controls on its “Honor of Kings” title to limit use by children. It was also required to alter “PlayerUnknown Battleground” but has not received approval for the new version.
The Financial Times quoted an unnamed WeGame executive, who said that the removal of “Monster Hunter: Worlds” was in fact not due to user complaints, but instead due to infighting within the regulator.
While it is not easy to know the real reasons for regulatory decisions, the moves may damage Tencent, if users turn instead to foreign-operated platforms. Valve Corp.’s Steam is reported to have 20 million users in China.