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Gaming giant Epic pulls back on Fortnite China over crackdown

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Epic said it will pull its massively popular survival game Fortnite from China, the world's biggest gaming market, later this month./AFP
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Nov 02, 2021 - 07:31 AM

BEIJING, CHINA — US tech giant Epic Games said it will shut down its popular survival game Fortnite in China, months after authorities imposed a series of strict curbs on the world’s biggest gaming market as part of a sweeping crackdown on the technology sector.

Beijing has embarked on a wide-ranging regulatory clampdown on a number of industries as part of a drive to tighten its control of the economy, with tech firms taking the brunt of the pain.

In September, officials said they wanted to curb addiction in the gaming-mad nation by announcing drastic cuts to the amount of time children spend playing online and ordering players to use ID cards when registering.

The moves dealt a severe blow to companies’ ability to make profits in the country and sent the share prices of gaming firms tumbling.

Now, Epic has pulled the plug, saying it will shut down the massively popular game on November 15.

“Fortnite China’s Beta test has reached an end, and the servers will be closed soon,” it said in a statement. “On November 15 at 11am, we will turn off game servers, and players will no longer be able to log in.”

Hong Kong-listed shares of Tencent, which has a large stake in Epic, were down Tuesday.

The move brings an end to a long-running test of Epic’s version of Fortnite specifically created for the Chinese market, where content is policed for excessive violence.

The action-packed shooter and world-building game is one of the most popular in the world, boasting more than 350 million users — more than the population of the United States.

Epic is the second US-based company to pull a popular product from China in recent weeks, after Microsoft announced in October that it will close its career-oriented social network LinkedIn.

In September, hundreds of Chinese video game makers including Tencent vowed to better police their products for “politically harmful” content and enforce curbs on underage players, as they looked to fall into line with government demands.

The 213 gaming firms promised in a joint statement to ban content that was “politically harmful, historically nihilistic, dirty and pornographic, bloody and terrifying”.

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