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Facing Growing Pressure, Gaming Giant Epic to Shut Down Chinese Version of Fortnite After 2 Years in Beta

Published: November 4, 2021
11-year-old Ansel, the photographer’s son, plays Fortnite featuring Travis Scott Presents: Astronomical on April 23, 2020 in South Pasadena, California. (Image: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Ever since its launch in July 2017, Fortnite has taken the gaming world by storm. In spite of its immense popularity, Epic Games has announced that it has given up on plans to bring the game to the Chinese market, after running a trial period in China. 

The game, called “Fortress Night” in China, was launched in April 2018, by Epic Games in partnership with Tencent. According to the official Fortnite China website, as translated by Kotaku, new user registrations and game download portal closed on Monday, Nov. 1. From Nov. 15, 11 a.m., servers will be completely turned off. The company thanked users who had “boarded the bus” and tested out the game.

Prior to its release, Fortnite went through several modifications to be approved by regulators in China. To adhere to Chinese cultural norms, various cosmetic changes were made that included the removal of skulls and blood. The amount of violence in the game was toned down. 

The company made changes to the game’s lore, implying that all characters were actually holograms in a simulation due to which no one really “dies” in the game. As a result, players in China have a completely different experience when compared to players in other parts of the world.

One of the most peculiar features in the Chinese version that seems to have put off many players was that there could be multiple winners. All players would “win” if they survived longer than 20 minutes. A Fortnite China wiki page also reveals that players received prompts to go study if they played for more than 90 minutes. 

Epic Games have also not been able to monetize the game in a manner they have done in other regions. With microtransactions being outlawed by the Chinese regime, there are no in-app transactions in the game. Therefore, the company basically hit a roadblock when it came to making profits. Chinese players were granted 400 V-Bucks (game currency) every week while battle passes were made free.

Another reason attributed to the shutdown is the severe restrictions imposed by Beijing on playing time. Those under the age of 18 were allowed to game for only 90 minutes daily on weekdays and three hours on weekends. State-backed media had referred to gaming as “spiritual opium.”

Industry analyst Daniel Ahmad noted that the game never actually launched in the country as it didn’t receive approval from the regulators. The version available was in beta testing for over two years. 

“So ultimately when Epic and Tencent decided to bring Fortnite to China they had a licensing agreement for x years and it’s clear that the cost of changes / operating the game / extending the license does not make sense anymore, given there is no approval for it at this point,” Ahmad wrote on Twitter.

After Microsoft announced in October that it would be pulling the plug on its local version of LinkedIn in China, Epic is the next U.S. company to withdraw its product from the Asian nation. 

It was not clear how many Fortnite players there are currently in China. Globally, the game boasts more than 350 million users. Having exited from the Chinese market, Epic will be forced to look at other avenues to make money.

Epic Games has yet to put out an official explanation for withdrawing Fortnite from China. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-listed shares of Tencent, which holds a 40 percent stake in Epic Games, went down on Nov. 2.