Technology

Fortnite exits China as gov cracks down on ‘spiritual opium’

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Fortnite has officially shut down in China just three years after launching amid a government crackdown on gaming and technology firms. 

The shutdown, which the North Carolina-based developer said it completed on Monday, comes as the Chinese government seeks to restrict what one state media outlet called the “spiritual opium” of online gaming.

In August, the government began barring minors from playing video games on school days and allowing just three hours of play during pre-determined hours on the weekends.

One Chinese Fortnite player, a 24-year-old named Zheng, told AFP he would “first cry for a little” after having spent more than two years playing the game. 

“Friends who have played with me, we’ll meet again if fate decrees,” wrote another pensive gamer, according to the outlet. 

Fortnite logo
Chinese state media has called video games “spiritual opium.”
NurPhoto via Getty Images

But Epic’s troubles in China began long before this year’s gaming crackdown.

Since Fortnite is free to play, the vast majority of its revenue comes from selling in-game items to players, including pricey virtual outfits from luxury brands like Balenciaga. When Epic launched the Chinese version of Fortnite 2018, the company hoped it would eventually get a government nod that never came.

That means that the Chinese version of Fortnite never made a cent during its three-year lifespan, even as the game brought in $5.1 billion in global revenue in 2020 alone.

“Thank you to everyone who boarded the bus and participated in the Fortnite test!” Epic Games told Chinese Fortnite players.
“Thank you to everyone who boarded the bus and participated in the Fortnite test!” Epic Games told Chinese Fortnite players.
AFP via Getty Images

Epic’s exit from the Chinese market also comes weeks after Microsoft shut down the Chinese version of LinkedIn and Yahoo pulled all its services out of the country. Both companies attributed the moves to an increasingly “challenging” operating environment in the country. 

“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,” Epic had written in a note to Chinese players. “Thank you to everyone who boarded the bus and participated in the Fortnite test!”

Epic Games did not immediately reply to a request for further comment. 

“Friends who have played with me, we’ll meet again if fate decrees,” wrote one pensive gamer.
“Friends who have played with me, we’ll meet again if fate decrees,” wrote one pensive gamer.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

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