Free-to-play RPG Genshin Impact has mostly been discussed for its likeness to Nintendo’s Zelda: Breath Of The Wild since it released in late September. Since then, players have discovered that the in-game chat censors “Hong Kong” and “Taiwan,” leading to calls to boycott the game.
As explained by games analyst Daniel Ahmad, who specializes in the Chinese market, Genshin Impact is published by MiHiYo, a developer based in Mainland China. This means it has to comply with a number of strict censorship rules set by China’s national games regulator, including one that prohibits games from containing “anything that threatens China’s national unity.”
This goes for both games developed in China and games being released in China, which is why a majority of foreign-developed games never get an official Chinese release. According to Niko Partners, only 55 foreign-developed games had been approved for release this year in China, as of August.
While these rules have been in place in China since 2003, its effects are becoming more noticeable globally, as Chinese companies such as Tencent gain more influence in the industry. Similar instances of China-sanctioned censorship seem to have flown under the radar, such as the word “Taiwan” being censored in games of PUBG Mobile–no matter what country you’re playing the game from.
Even Animal Crossing ran into controversy this year after it became a virtual home for the ongoing Hong Kong protests. While the game was never officially for sale in China, and never officially banned, major Chinese grey market retailers suddenly stopped stocking the game after the virtual protests were publicized.
Genshin Impact has also allegedly censored “Kiryu Coco” on Chinese servers, the name of a Japanese Vtuber who ran afoul of the One-China Policy after streaming user analytics for their YouTube account that listed Taiwan as a separate country from China.
The bad news for Genshin Impact fans is that the decision to ban words like “Taiwan” and “Hong Kong” are largely out of MiHiYo’s hands, meaning it’s unlikely to change any time soon.
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