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.
The South Korean-made PUBG was named by global game distributor Steam as one of its highest-grossing titles of 2018, pulling in more than 65 million USA dollars in March outside China according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.
The PC version of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is still technically available in China.
On the same day PUBG was pulled out, Tencent rolled out a similar game for which it received monetization approval.
Tencent made a decision to shut down the mobile version of the battle royale game, commonly known as PUBG Mobile, because the Chinese government refused to allow in-app purchases, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Tencent's shares were up by as much as 3.7 percent, their biggest intraday climb in about two months.
In a website statement, Tencent described Game for Peace as a tactical shooting game developed in-house which "pays tribute to the blue sky warriors that guard our country's airspace", in reference to the Chinese air force. Tencent licensed PUBG in China and created a mobile version.
Some Weibo users said on starting Game for Peace, they found themselves at a place in the game that strongly resembled the place they left off in PUBG, complete with PUBG gaming history. "The gameplay, the background, the graphic design, and the characters, they're nearly the same", she said.
IHS Markit game analyst Cui Chenyu told Reuters that the title is "almost exactly the same" as PUBG, though it's said to lack more gory elements in line with government regulations. It was named as one of the highest-grossing titles on the Steam video game store in 2018.
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