Tech

Amid in-game Hong Kong protests, Chinese retailers drop Animal Crossing sales

  • A selection of pro-democracy protest images being created and shared in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Joshua Wong
  • A selection of pro-democracy protest images being created and shared in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Vincent Lee
  • A selection of pro-democracy protest images being created and shared in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Alexis Ong
  • A selection of pro-democracy protest images being created and shared in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. USGamer
  • A selection of pro-democracy protest images being created and shared in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Joshua Wong
  • A selection of pro-democracy protest images being created and shared in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Joshua Wong
  • A selection of pro-democracy protest images being created and shared in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Wired UK

Chinese online retailers are cracking down on third-party sales of imported copies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The move comes as the game has become a popular virtual spot for anti-government protests amid coronavirus-induced lockdowns.

Reuters reports that popular gray market Chinese e-commerce sites Pinduoduo and Taobao have taken down all listings for Animal Crossing as of this morning. Chinese tech site Pingwest reports that the two retailers sent messages to their resellers late Thursday notifying them of the ban. The Chinese government hasn't issued a statement regarding the game, though a directive from government officials seems the most likely reason for the sudden move.

A licensed Chinese version of the Switch launched late last year through local partner Tencent after the lifting of an outright game console ban in 2015. That version of the system can currently play three Mario-themed games officially licensed for the Chinese market, as well as imported international Switch cartridges, but it can't access the system's online features.

But many Chinese gamers have taken to importing fully featured international versions of the system through online resellers. Import prices for those consoles, and for accessories like Ring Fit Adventure, have skyrocketed on Chinese retail sites in recent weeks, mirroring supply shortages in other markets.

As industry analyst Daniel Ahmad notes on Twitter, sites like Taobao have officially banned third-party sales of imported video games since 2017. But that ban is usually lightly enforced and only becomes operative if, as Ahmad puts it, "the game has content or user-generated content that is deemed to be too offensive or violent" or "the game has become very popular and caught the attention of regulators."

No censorship on this island

Both of those issues seem to apply to Animal Crossing. In recent weeks, the game has Read More – Source