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PUBG ban in China unlikely, says industry analyst

China is already the number one region for the game, with a 40% share of active players

Industry analyst Daniel Ahmad has refuted the idea that PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds could face a ban in China.

A recent statement from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) declared "the gladiator-like mentality of the computer game deviates from the values of socialism and is deemed harmful to young consumers."

However, in a blog post for data firm Niko Partners, Ahmad detailed why a Chinese ban of PUBG is unlikely.

China is already the number one region for the game with a 40% share of the total active players. Additionally, Chinese internet giant Tencent has purchased a 5% share in developer Bluehole.

As the game is currently available unlicensed through Steam, which operates in a "grey area" in China, regulators would need to ban the entire platform to stop its distribution. This is problematic, however, as Tencent currently operates a licensed competing service, WeGame, which could also be affected by changes in legislation.

"If PUBG was to launch officially, Bluehole would need to partner with a Chinese publisher and submit the game to the SAPPRFT for a license," said Ahmad. "If PUBG was to go down this route, we believe that it would be harder for them to get approval without making changes to the game as per SAPPRFT content regulations."

Ahmad notes that Valve found itself in a similar situation when bringing Counter Strike: Global Offensive to China. Partnering with native publisher Perfect World, Valve was able to release a slightly modified version of the game however.

The SAPPRFT statement took particular umbrage with the battle royale nature of PUBG, but Ahmad argues that even this isn't enough to stop the game's proliferation.

"A number of Chinese developers and publishers have already jumped on the battle royale trend and have been quick to release their own battle royale title or game mode," he said.

"An additional host of Chinese developers are rushing to create their own versions too, similar to how Fortnite released after PUBG in the West."

According to Ahmad, it's unlikely that SAPPRFT will stop approving battle royale games, especially as other shooters have been allowed for years. "However, we do believe that the SAPPRFT will be stricter with licensing battle royale games, ensuring they comply with content regulations. We believe that games such as Fortnite: Battle Royale, with less-realistic violence, will have an easier time being approved over games like PUBG which go for realistic bloody effects."

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Ivy Taylor

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Ivy joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2017 having previously worked as a regional journalist, and a political campaigns manager before that. They are also one of the UK's foremost Sonic the Hedgehog apologists.