Earlier this month, the Chinese government established its Online Ethics Review Committee, a group tasked with reviewing online games to establish whether they violate the country’s social and ethical rules. Of the 20 popular online games included in the first batch of reviews, 11 were instructed to take corrective action to address the committee’s concerns. The other nine failed the review entirely, and now seem to have been banned in the country.
Several of the games on the list are far more popular in China than in the West, produced by companies like Tencent and NetEase. 10 of them, however, have significant Western audiences – the list includes League of Legends, Overwatch, and Fortnite, along with plenty of other popular titles.
League of Legends is joined by Overwatch, Diablo, and World of Warcraft in requiring “corrective action.” According to a Reddit thread documenting the review process, Riot’s MOBA features “overly revealing female characters,” and an “inharmonious chatroom” – although that strikes me as an extremely polite way of talking about League’s community.
Overwatch, Diablo, and WoW all also suffer from dodgy in-game chat. Blizzard’s FPS is also criticised for having “game visuals [that] promote incorrect values,” while the review concludes that Diablo’s missions “include fraud.”
Further down the list is a group of six Western games that have been banned altogether. Many of those are battle royales; PUBG, Fortnite, H1Z1, and Ring of Elysium have all be banned for featuring “blood and gore.” While I can accept some of those, I’m very confused by the take on Fortnite, a game that’s famously devoid of any blood effects.
Another hero shooter, Paladins, has also been outright banned, for a combination of “overly revealing female characters, blood and gore, and vulgar content.” As with Fortnite, the cartoon aesthetics of Hi-Rez’s shooter seems to be lacking any blood effects, so I’m unsure as to why Overwatch has been given a clearer pass.
Blizzard and Tencent have been hit particularly hard by the review. If you include the Chinese publisher’s stakes in PUBG, League of Legends, and Paladins, Tencent has been included six times in the 20-game list. Blizzard and NetEase appear on the list three and four times, respectively.
We’ve reached out to Riot, Blizzard, and Hi-Rez for comment on the review and on any changes that may be coming to the games in an attempt to get around the bans. We’ll update this story when we learn more.