The Chinese gaming company this week postponed the launch of a highly anticipated video game in mainland China after one of its social media accounts was blocked for allegedly making a politically sensitive comment.
“Diablo Immortal,” which was scheduled to be released on Thursday, has been postponed until further notice, according to an announcement on NetEase’s †NTES†
Chinese website on Sunday. The title was co-created by
NetEase and Blizzard Entertainment, a division of Activision Blizzard †ATVIA†
NetEase gave no reason for the last minute delay, but suggested in its statement that it was making technical updates to the game. The company has not shared a new release date and declined to comment further on the matter.
Some online users speculated this week that the company had run into political trouble.
Users on Twitter shared screenshots
claiming to show that the game’s official account on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter-like platform, had posted a comment in May that translated to “why isn’t the bear still resigning?”
The reported post was seen by critics as a possible reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has been… compared
to the cartoon character Winnie the Pooh
CNN Business was unable to directly verify the authenticity of the screenshots. NetEase declined to comment on the matter and referred CNN Business to its original statement.
Brutal netizens in China have often associated Pooh with Xi, claiming that there is an uncanny resemblance between the two and provoking the ire of Chinese censors.
A message on the Weibo account
for “Diablo Immortal” said it was currently suspended from posting, citing a “violation of relevant laws and regulations”. Weibo did not immediately respond to a request for more information.
Some users on Chinese social media suggested that game makers may have “offended” China.
“Diablo Immortal”, a multiplayer game that allows users to defeat demons in an ancient world approval for the Chinese release
by the national media watchdog, the National Press and Publication Administration, last year.
The title had already received 10 million installs
prior to launch in China,
from June 10, developers said on its official Twitter account
News of the delayed launch in China shocked investors. NetEase shares fell 7.8% in New York on Monday and 6.7% in Hong Kong on Monday immediately after the announcement, before rebounding the following day. Shares closed 1.2% higher in Hong Kong on Tuesday and were last 1.5% lower in US premarket trading.
The Chinese authorities have been cracking down on video games in recent months, along with the government introduction of strict time limits
for minors last summer. Those rules stipulated that users under the age of 18 may only have one hour of playtime between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Fridays, weekends and holidays.
The country’s state media ran titles that were popular among young people, suggesting they had harmful effects on players and describe gaming
as a form of ‘spiritual opium’.
NetEase, an industry leader in China, is no stranger to the crackdown, with officials tell the company
and fellow Chinese colossus Tencent †TCEHY†
last September to focus less on profit and more on discouraging potential “addictions” to their games.