Fortnite To Withdraw From China Amid Gaming Crackdown

Gaming giant Epic Games is withdrawing the Chinese version of Fortnite, its wildly popular battle-royale game from mainland China.

Epic announced the decision in an update on its website, stating that it will shut down its local Chinese version called “Fortress Night” on 15 November.

Users have already been prevented from registering for new accounts as of Monday 1 November 2021.

China withdraw

Fortnite, or Fortress Night as it is known in China, had been launched in that country in 2018, thanks to a partnership between Epic Games and Tencent (which owns 40 percent of Epic).

Earlier this week it emerged that Tencent’s proposed £919 million takeover of British games studio Sumo Group, is being investigated by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Fortress Night it should be noted was never fully launched in China, but instead a version was playable in a “test” mode, excluding some features from the main game such as in-app purchases.

Epic Games did not go into exact details as to why it is shutting down Fortnite in China, but it comes amid a growing Chinese clampdown on gaming and other online activities.

In August the Chinese media watchdog imposed a new rule that online gamers under the age of 18 were banned from playing computer games on weekdays, and were limited to playing online to just three hours most weekends.

“The battle royale genre has been strictly regulated in China,” Daniel Ahmad, senior analyst at Niko Partners, was quoted by CNBC as saying in a tweet. “The domestic games that are approved there have heavy content changes.”

Ahmad noted that PUBG PC, which was the first game to popularise the battle royale genre in recent years, wasn’t approved in China either.

According to CNBC, China is known for its tight grip over the video game sector.

Games are required to go through a strict approval process before rolling out in the country, with Western titles often being heavily censored.

China withdrawal

The withdraw of Epic Games and Fortnite from China is the latest example of a Western tech firm withdrawing from the country.

Last month Microsoft announced it was shutting down its local version of LinkedIn in mainland China.

The software giant cited the increased censorship China is practising online, as the principle reason for the closure. It will replace the social network with a job search website.

LinkedIn was the last major US-operated social network still operating in China.

Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook have been blocked for more than a decade in China.

Google decided to shutter its China operations in 2010, after a notorious incident in 2009 and 2010.

A decade ago, Google accused Chinese-based hackers of carrying out the attacks on the Gmail accounts of dissidents, an accusation that China has always denied.

That cyber attack triggered a huge political row between America and China in 2010 and 2011, and resulted in Google effectively retreating from the Chinese market after it refused to abide by that country’s censorship rules.

China clampdowns

Clampdowns and strict rules in China are of course nothing new.

In 2019 for example China enacted a law that requires individuals to have their faces scanned when purchasing a SIM card, to ensure mobile users could be identified.

The country has also forced through a draconian security law in Hong Kong in 2020, which the British government said violated its Joint Declaration agreement between the two countries.

The law bans any activity Beijing deems to constitute sedition, secession and subversion, and allows Chinese state security to operate in the territory.

In August China approved sweeping new rules that to govern the collection and use of people’s personal data going forward. Essentially this law prohibits “illegally collecting, using, processing, transmitting, disclosing and trading people’s personal information.”

China has also recently clamped down on private enterprises and companies in the country, which has impacted some of the country’s public figures.

In June China’s central bank urged banks and payment firms to crack down harder on cryptocurrency trading.

This is part of China’s ongoing crackdown on the banking and crypto-mining industry.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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