Chinese tech giant Tencent, the world’s largest gaming company, said Wednesday that it shuttered its test version of “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (PUBG) in China, encouraging players to turn to a similar but government-approved game with patriotic overtones instead.
The company had waited for more than a year for regulators to approve its ability to generate revenue from in-app purchases in the blockbuster game. But it said on its official social media account Wednesday that its “testing” of PUBG had finished and it had taken the game offline – implying that its approvals had not gone through.
The hashtag “PUBG is gone” has since gone viral with more than 300 million views and 90,000 posts. The game had first been introduced last February and quickly became the most popular in China with about 70 million daily active users, though Tencent remained unable to make money off it.
In the same post announcing the pull, Tencent announced that it had launched a new anti-terrorism game referencing the Chinese air force called “Game for Peace,” which was approved for monetization by regulators last month. Analysts told Reuters that they predicted it could bring in RMB8 billion to RMB10 billion ($1.18-$1.48 billion) in annual revenues.
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The game appears to be suspiciously similar to “PUBG,” with similar design, characters and game play. Some formerly avid “PUBG” players on Chinese social media said that when they booted up the new Communist Party-approved game, they found themselves at a similar level to where they left off in the now defunct program.
“Game for Peace is strikingly similar to PUBG Mobile, even unabashedly migrating user data to the new game if the user so desires,” said Lisa Cosmas Hanson, managing partner of gaming market intelligence firm Niko Partners. “It is negative for Bluehole, the Korean developer of PUBG, yet we have no knowledge of whether Tencent and Bluehole have a mutual agreement regarding Game for Peace.” The game hit number one on the iOS game revenue chart in China on its first day.
“I’m going to die of laughter,” said one Weibo user, translated by Reuters. “When you shoot people, they don’t bleed, and the dead get up and wave goodbye!”