Rumors are spreading suggesting that China's recently established Online Ethics Review Committee has recommended bans on nine popular games - mainly battle royale titles - for failing to pass "social and ethical rules".
The games include Fortnite, PUBG, H1Z1, Ring of Elysium and Paladins, all of which were ruled as prohibited or withdrawn because of "blood and gore" and "vulgar content."
Other popular games, including Riot's League of Legends and Activision Blizzard titles such as Overwatch, Diablo and World of Warcraft, were not prohibited, but instead are recommended to have "corrective action."
This rumor - and for now it is certainly only a rumor - seems to have been sparked by a post on Chinese gaming forum NGA, and was then translated to English in a Reddit thread which garnered a lot of attention.
The leaked list of games, which you can find below, was translated from this table - but as one Reddit user points out, this could have been put together by the original user and then simply claimed as a legitimate leak.
There are also some arguably odd rulings, considering Overwatch character models like Widowmaker show cleavage (which is not even allowed on Chinese television) - but Overwatch is not prohibited, while Fortnite is. The Epic Games title also features no blood, so why 'blood and gore' is given as the reason for its ban is unclear.
|Arena of Valor (Tencent)||Overly revealing female characters, rewards given based on rank, distorted concepts of history and culture.||Corrective action|
|League of Legends (Riot)||Overly revealing female characters, rewards given based on rank, inharmonious chatroom.||Corrective action|
|Blade & Soul (NCSOFT)||Overly revealing female characters, inharmonious chatroom.||Corrective action|
|Chu Liu Xiang (NetEase)||Overly revealing female characters, inharmonious chatroom, game missions include fraud.||Corrective action|
|Overwatch (Blizzard)||Game visuals promote incorrect values, inharmonious chatroom.||Corrective action|
|Diablo (Blizzard)||Inharmonious chat, game missions include fraud.||Corrective action|
|World of Warcraft (Blizzard)||Overly revealing female characters, inharmonious chatroom.||Corrective action|
|Westward Journey (NetEase)||Overly revealing female characters, inharmonious chatroom, distorted concepts of history and culture.||Corrective action|
|Code: Eva (Tencent)||Rewards given based on rank, distorted concepts of history and culture.||Corrective action|
|The Legent of Mir 3 (WeMade)||Inharmonious chatroom.||Corrective action|
|Swords of Legends Online (Aurogon)||Inharmonious chatroom.||Corrective action|
|PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (Bluehole)||Blood and gore.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Fortnite (Epic)||Blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|H1Z1 (Daybreak)||Blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Alliance of Valiant Arms (Red Duck)||Blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Ring of Elysium (Tencent)||Blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Paladins (Hi-Rez)||Overly revealing female characters, blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Free Fire Battlegrounds (Garena)||Overly revealing female characters, blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Knives Out (NetEase)||Overly revealing female characters, blood and gore, vulgar content.||Prohibited/Withdraw|
|Quantum Matrix (NetEase)||Blood and gore, vulgar content, inharmonious chat||Prohibited/Withdraw|
League of Legends is said to feature "overly revealing female characters, rewards given based on rank, inharmonious chatroom", but it doesn't explicitly explain why rewards given based on rank is an issue for the review.
As reported by PCGamesN, a lot of these games are only really popular in China, but the ones highlighted in bold also have large western audiences.
The specific targeting of battle royale games is also curious, especially since Tencent, the biggest games publisher and one of the biggest conglomerates in the world, recently invested $15 million to bring Fortnite to China.
In October 2017, the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association warned that battle royale games were too violent and were against Chinese values. However, in November 2017, Tencent reached an agreement with the Chinese government to publish PUBG.
The Reddit thread has since been updated, stating that "Blizzard purportedly posted an announcement on their official Weibo (China's version of Twitter) account denying that they've received notice for action needed on their games. However, this has since been deleted."
If this leaked list turns out to be accurate, then it would be a massive blow to Blizzard, NetEase and Tencent, with four, three and six games marked down respectively.