China has seemingly banned sales of Animal Crossing: New Horizons after the game became a platform for political dissidents of the Chinese government.
One notable Animal Crossings player is Joshua Wong, Hong Kong’s secretary-general of the pro-democracy party Demosisto. Wong has been using New Horizons to create political commentary and satirical content amid the Coronavirus lockdown.
1/ "I play the game, I just bought it a few days ago. For lots of people around the world who play this game, they have to put their ideal life into the game, and for HKers, we have to put our protest movement and our protest sites inside the game." pic.twitter.com/YWyZLSgSgV
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) April 2, 2020
In the wake of images hitting social media last week, listings for the game have been taken down from online stores in China including Pinduoduo and Taobao – the latter owned by Alibaba. Tech news publication Ping West reports that some resellers on Taobao commented that the store directed them to stop selling the title through the platform.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons may have launched in March but the Chinese government has yet to approve official sales of the popular Nintendo Switch title. This has led fans to rely on other measures to get their Animal Crossing fix, namely importing the game through these ebay-like websites.
Games industry analyst Daniel Ahmad notes that Chinese gamers are still find workarounds. New Horizons is still available to buy by switching regions on Nintendo’s eShop, or alternatively by contacting online sellers privately and buying the game under the table.
This means that gamers in China can no longer directly purchase the import version of the game from Taobao.
However, the game itself is unaffected. Players can still play the game offline or online on their imported Nintendo Switch consoles.
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) April 10, 2020
While there is no evidence so far that this was done in response to pressure from the Chinese government, it wouldn’t be the first time a video game was censored in China for political purposes. Earlier this year, the game Devotion was removed from Steam over its inclusion of art mocking China’s president.
Taiwanese premier Su Tseng-chang has responded to the game’s disappearance in China, stating in a Facebook post that Animal Crossing: New Horizons would never be banned in Taiwan.
“Taiwan will not censor a game where you pick up tree branches and grow turnips, players feel free to make fun of the government,” said Taiwan’s premier. “Democracy and freedom of speech are Taiwan’s most important values. Everyone can use any medium to say what they want to say, please everyone cherish this lifestyle and play as much as possible.”