Monster Hunter: World removed from sale in China

Monster Hunter: World recently set a record for the biggest Japanese game launch on Steam of all time, nearly doubling the mark set by the previous record-holder, Dark Souls 3. But it may have a tougher time ahead of it in China, where authorities have ordered the game removed from Tencent's WeGame platform. 

The reason for the game's removal isn't currently known, but a Morningstar report said Chinese regulators had received "a large number of complaints" about the game prior to the cancellation of its operating license. The site said one analyst suggested that the game's depiction of corpses could be at least partly responsible for the takedown. 

The removal is a knock against Capcom, but could have an even bigger impact on WeGame parent Tencent. The company rebranded its Tencent Gaming Platform to the more roll-off-the-tongue WeGame in 2017, and last month revealed a plan to roll the service out internationally, positioning it as a competitor to Steam. IHS Markit senior research analyst Chenyu Cui said Monster Hunter: World was the first game to release simultaneously on Steam and We Game, a particularly significant accomplishment given its popularity. But the takedown means "Tencent might lose its good timing to compete," Cui said.  

Monster Hunter: World promised to be a major hit for WeGame, which announced in July that more than one million people had preordered it on the platform. And it definitely could have used the win: The report says Tencent also has yet to make any money on another marquee title, Playerunknown's Battlegrounds. It won the right to publish the game in China in 2017 and launched it early this year on mobile devices, but regulators still have not approved it for in-game purchases. 

"Investors expect Tencent to develop and launch more games at a time when the company has not generated a profit from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds," Fullbright Securities analysti Stevan Tam told the South China Morning Press. "The gaming business is of concern for Tencent because games are the most vulnerable to policy tightening on online content."

Owners have until August 20 to apply for a refund, or they can opt to keep it, although there's no guarantee that it will remain playable. But if the speculation about corpses being the cause of the trouble is correct, I wouldn't be surprised to see it returned to WeGame fairly quickly: The Chinese government blocked access to World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King in 2009 over its portrayal of skeletons, but it got the green light shortly after, following changes to some in-game models to reduce the gore and put skins on skeletons.

A ¥30 (US$4) WeGame coupon will also be issued to owners as a "sorry for the hassle" token. I've reached out to Tencent and Capcom for more information and will update if I receive a reply.