The Fortnite video game will withdraw from China much to the dismay of its fans. This game brings together millions of followers around the world.
Fortnite, launched in 2017, a “Battle Royale game” that takes place on an island (in a universe close to cartoons but in end-of-the-world mode) where players compete against each other. only one survivor remains. It’s a global phenomenon: 350 million users. More than the entire American population combined. Some games are sometimes followed live by millions of spectators and the stars of the moment (like Ariana Grande) make appearances in the form of avatars.
Too many regulations
The American publisher of Fortnite, Epic Games, has not given an official explanation at the end of this experiment of its “beta” version, but its decision comes in a global context of regulatory tightening against private groups tech, in which video games (also deemed too addictive) are no longer spared.
Since this summer, under-18s in China no longer have the right to play online freely: their time is limited to one hour per day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
— ZayArts ☭ (@MarxistArtist) November 1, 2021
The ruling Communist Party also got involved in the content: not too much violence, not too many homosexual romances, censorship of stories deemed “politically sensitive”.
To comply with the regulations, Fortnite had already imagined a specific and very watered down Chinese version. Come characters could not have a skull instead of their head: they were covered with green skin. Fortnite had also rewritten the official history of the game by explaining that everything took place in a training simulation and that no one would really die in it.
RUPTURE : Fortnite Chine a pris fin et fermera définitivement le 15 novembre.
— 🇨🇵GA / leaks_fortnite🇨🇵 (@Leaks_Actus) October 31, 2021
A version that also did not allow to buy options, costumes, or weapons for the characters, because these “microtransactions” are prohibited by the government. However, it is precisely from these sales that the game derives a large part of its income. Without these cash inflows, and despite the vastness of the Chinese market, the economic model was not sustainable.
In addition to these difficulties, there is a new regulation on the protection of personal data: the Personal Information Protection Law, the equivalent of our general data protection regulation in Europe, and much stricter. It came into effect this week. The text forces foreign digital companies to report to Chinese surveillance agencies; it also prohibits them from transferring their customers’ data to countries with “lower regulatory standards”. Randomly, the United States, which does not have a data protection law.
In addition to the PIPL, there is a cybersecurity law that entered into force in May 2017 and another data security law implemented in September: an arsenal of measures that considerably restrict cross-border data flows and impose their location.
Yahoo!, LinkedIn is also leaving China
Other big names in digital leave China: Yahoo! for example. The search engine, which arrived in China in 1999, has not been accessible at all since Tuesday. The reason was given by the group’s management: “an increasingly difficult commercial and legal environment”. The portal had already closed its messaging service in 2013 and was no longer very heavy.
LinkedIn, Microsoft’s professional social network, also announced its upcoming departure in October. The computer giant has long been one of the few US internet companies to successfully impose a social network in China despite censorship.
The pressure exerted by the Chinese authorities in recent years on foreign digital companies has, in return, allowed the emergence of national giants like Alibaba or Baidu, the Chinese Google. Groups that have long benefited from Beijing’s largesse but which also find themselves now subject to increasingly restrictive regulations.