China wants to ban the popular online video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons, due to it becoming a hub for dissidents to criticize Chinese dictator Xi Jinping and authorities in Hong Kong.
The game was released for the Nintendo Switch last month, and has enjoyed a surge in signups amid the worldwide lockdowns and social distancing orders caused by the Chinese virus pandemic. In the U.K., the game has already enjoyed the biggest launch sales in the history of the Switch.
But after Hong Kong dissidents started using the game to spread protest messages, the communist regime in Beijing is trying to ban it.
According to Vice, the game has been taken down from Chinese online retailers Taobao and Pinduoduo as of this morning, with sellers of the game reporting that they have been instructed not to list the game in their inventory.
But now Beijing appears to be trying to stop the sale of the game. Listings on ecommerce platforms Taobao and Pinduoduo have been removed since Friday morning, and sellers report they have been directed to no longer list the game. It is unclear if the decision was made by the platforms themselves, or at the direction of the Chinese government.
The game is not officially available in China as it has not been approved by the country’s gaming regulator.
But that hasn’t stopped people in China buying it and “the game has become extremely popular,” Daniel Ahmad, a video games analyst with Niko Partners, tweeted. “Even places like the Shanghai Fire department used Animal Crossing to create some in-game messages.” And the ban is unlikely to stop the game from being played in China, Ahmad said.
Hong Kong dissident Joshua Wong, who helped popularize the in-game protests, said Chinese citizens should blame the government and not protesters for the ban.
Oh no, Xi Jinping banned #AnimalCrossing in China (apparently because I play it), and these angry gamers are blaming me everywhere instead of blaming their own government lol 🎮🎮 pic.twitter.com/FdzObiFAyk
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) April 10, 2020
China is one of the most censored societies in the world, with many western platforms including Facebook banned from the country, and domestic social networks like Weibo subject to strict monitoring and control by authorities. Animal Crossing may be the latest victim.
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Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.