Chinese censorship is expanding onto the islands in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. After the game was taken off the shelves from China’s e-commerce platforms last week, it was banned on Chinese video game live-streaming platforms Douyu and Huya yesterday.
The pull-off of the game was quite a surprise for many Chinese fans. Released by Nintendo this March, Animal Crossing has been a phenomenal hit globally. Players are attracted by the peaceful and relaxing environment of the island. Many Chinese game influencers have posted videos of the game on local game forums and communities.
With the customization tools, players can create unique designs of their own islands in the game, including floor patterns, facial paintings, costumes and layout changes of the island.
On Monday evening (April 13th), several video game influencers on Weibo, China’s biggest social media platform, revealed that contents related to Animal Crossing were banned on the two top video game streaming platforms, Douyu and Huya. The two video game platforms are both listed companies in the US stock market with large investments from Tencent, the Chinese Internet giant and the collaborating partner of Nintendo’s Chinese eShop.
At 18:15, the host of Weibo’s #NintendoSwitch topic (“玩Switch的呆呆兽”) said that Douyu has started to censor the content related to Animal Crossing. Users cannot search for videos or live-streaming podcasts with the keyword “Animal Crossing” on Douyu ever since.
The news was later proven by a signed video game broadcaster (“传说中的林克”) who received official notice from Douyu. It is said that the platform is implementing a complete ban on the game in three days. The video streamer also expressed his disappointment with the Chinese authorities.
“I’ve never live-streamed the game before and will not do it in the future. However, I’m very disappointed that the authorities just cut off the game and give up the space of public opinion to those who are plotting to split our country. ”
The underlying reasons for the ban are not verified. It is speculated that the ban of the game resulted from the politically sensitive contents generated by pro-independent Hong Kong protesters. However, there is no official comment from the Chinese authorities, e-commerce websites or the video platforms yet.
None of the sources has specified if the ban is an official announcement from the country’s top authorities or simply self-censorship by the video platforms. Currently, Animal Crossing is still searchable on other video platforms such as Bilibili.com. Contents of the game can also be accessed on social media apps like Weibo, RED, and WeChat.
While the game is yet to be approved by the Chinese authorities to be released on Nintendo eShop in China, Chinese Switch owners managed to find ways to purchase the game from eShop of other regions or obtain the imported copies on e-commerce platforms like Taobao, JD, and Pinduoduo. However, listings of the game have been removed from these platforms since April 10th.
Most of the Switch owners are not relying solely on the Chinese eShop, as the eShop has only three listed games, all of which come from the Super Mario series. According to anonymous interviews, Animal Crossing is still purchasable from online shopping agents in the “grey market” at a price of around 400 RMB, as some Taobao sellers are taking the sales of the game outside the platform with person-to-person transactions on WeChat.
Feature image by Ada Jiang.