Epic Games, the developer behind Fortnite, is shutting down their most prominent title in one of the major gaming markets – China. The game stopped accepting new users’ registrations and became unavailable for download as of Monday, November 1. The official shutdown is scheduled for November 15, after which existing players won’t be able to log into the game.
According to BBC, Epic Games revealed that the “test” phase for Fortress Night, the Chinese version of the game, came to an end and that the game will be discontinued. On November 15, Epic Games will shut down Fortnite’s servers, barring all China-based users from logging in. The company’s official statement extends gratitude to players for “boarding the bus” and participating in the game without offering any concrete information on why the company decided to pull the plug on the world’s most famous battle royale.
Fortress Night (Fortnite) never had a full launch in China. Instead, Epic Games partnered with Tencent to release the game in China, but only under the guise of a “test” mode, which excluded some features from the main version of the game. In fact, Fortnite, or rather Fortress Night, had to undergo severe modifications before it was made readily available to China’s gaming community. For example, Chinese law prevents the depictions of skulls, which led to the alteration of a number of skull-related cosmetics in-game. This change isn’t specific only to Fortnite. World of Warcraft, an MMO that offers the undead as a character choice, also had to undergo massive changes to appeal to China’s censorship in video games, which censors blood, gore, bones, and skulls.
But this is nothing new. China is known for its tight grip over the video gaming industry, and games like Fortnite are required to go through a strict approval process before they’re released, with Western titles often heavily censored. And it would appear that Fortress Night never got its official approval from the Chinese government, and therefore couldn’t officially launch and monetize its services. Especially considering that Fortnite operates as a free-to-play gaming title, which relies on in-app purchases (microtransaction) – which are heavily regulated in China.
Additionally, China’s video game regulator announced that underage online games, like Fortnite, will only be allowed to be played for an hour on Fridays, weekends, and Holidays, branding online games as “spiritual opium.” Additionally, the Chinese government also limited the amount of money that gamers, even adults, can spend on DLCs and microtransactions – with the hard limit being anywhere between $30 and $60, depending on your age.
And how will the Chinese government know? Well, gaming companies like those responsible for Fortnite are required to cooperate with Tencent, China’s gaming giant, to “force” players to sign up for online gaming using their real names and identification, providing the government with direct insight into its people’s gaming habits. Moreover, Tencent announced it was rolling out facial recognition software to stop children playing between 10 pm and 8 am after the public expressed fear that the children might misuse their parents’ identifications to circumvent the rules.