Epic pulls plug on Fortnite in China

Epic Games announced today that its work to bring video game mega-title Fortnite to the Chinese market is shutting down.

The company said in an official announcement that the long-running test of the popular shooter title in China will conclude on November 15. New users won’t be accepted starting today.

Tencent, a Chinese internet giant, owns a stake in Epic Games, along with complete ownership of Riot Games, another American gaming company with an international gaming hit in its portfolio.

China’s gaming industry has been undergoing refreshed regulatory scrutiny in recent months, with the domestic government working to limit gaming time amongst youths. The impact of the Chinese Communist Party’s move to lower hours-played amongst its younger population is not yet clear, but the decision could have made the economics of building Fortnite for China untenable.

Epic had built a China-specific version of Fortnite, a variation on the title that is well-known in the rest of the world. A gamer-powered wiki details a suite of differences, including gameplay and monetization changes, along with different character graphics to meet local laws. The same article notes that after a certain amount of playing time users could no longer earn in-game experience points.

The decision to halt Fortnite China could be viewed as a response to the country’s changing gaming market. With even more restrictions placed on gaming time, and lower monetization possibilities due to restrictions on microtransactions, the math simply has not penciled out.

To see another American company pull its popular product from the Chinese digital realm in the wake of LinkedIn’s own decision the other month is notable. The two moves underscore how difficult it can be for non-Chinese companies to offer products inside of the nation, even if they have a local champion.

Other cultural content is not faring much better. Recent Marvel film “Eternals” doesn’t appear set to release in the country, perhaps due to its director — Beijing-born Chloé Zhao — having made comments that some construed as critical of the nation.

The regulatory environment and lessening ability, or interest, to bring global films and games to China will further isolate the country from international culture. And, perhaps, in reverse, limit China’s ability to earn soft power through its own cultural creations.

Regardless, for Fortnite’s Chinese fans, their ability to play the game sans using tricks to get around Chinese authorities is coming to a close.

Epic Games is not commenting on the closure beyond the following statement shared with players in China (translated to English below):

To Fortnite China players:

Fortnite China’s Beta test will be ending, and the servers will be closed soon. For details, please see below:

On Monday, November 1 at 11 am, we will close the new user registration entrance and game download portal;

On Monday, November 15 at 11 am, we will turn off servers for Fortnite, and players will no longer be able to connect to the game through the WeGame client.

Thank you to all the Fortnite China players who have ridden the Battle Bus with us by participating in the Beta.

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