The Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings just shut down what should have been its most profitable mobile game, the global smash-hit PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), and replaced it with a lookalike that doubles as a tidy piece of propaganda.
South Korean-made PUBG was named by global game distributor Steam as one of its highest-grossing titles of 2018, and industry insiders estimated Tencent could rake in revenue of $1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,000 crores) if it was allowed to earn income from it.
Game for Peace, like PUBG, is an all-versus-all multiplayer shooter, where gun-toting avatars compete to be the last left alive.
On China's Twitter-like Weibo, topic "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is gone" soared to the second spot with 300 million views. Around 70 million people reportedly played PUBG Mobile in China every day.
Tencent has been trying for over a year to get the necessary approvals in order for the company to start monetising PUBG through in-game purchases.
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Tencent says Game for Peace "pays tribute to the blue sky warriors that guard our country's airspace" and has a counter-terrorism theme.
Changes include the absence of gore and blood in Game for Peace, and characters sit up and wave goodbye when they're killed.
Game approvals in China suffered a nine-month hiatus previous year after an administrative reshuffle in March created a major backlog plus a breakdown in command.
Instead, it directed users to a newly launched and almost identical Tencent-licensed title called "Game for Peace". "The game play, the background, the graphic design and the characters, they're nearly the same".
In a post on Weibo, Tencent revealed it has given up on the titles and his instead now launched a brand new battle royale game that it has gained approval to make money from: Game for Peace.