Animal Crossing: New Horizons is no longer available for sale on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao — not long after the game was used by Hong Kong activists to post protest messages against China.
The hit Nintendo Switch game was pulled from Taobao and fellow digital store Pinduoduo, Reuters reported Friday. Screenshots shared by Taobao sellers showed that merchandise and other hardware related to the game have also been prohibited, according to Nintendo Life.
While there has been no official explanation on Animal Crossing‘s disappearance, the game’s takedown follows its rise as a tool for Hong Kong protesters to spread pro-democracy content while observing social distancing rules.
One of the protesters, Joshua Wong, is a well-known democracy activist who uploaded an image of his in-game island to Twitter. It featured a banner with the words “Free Hong Kong, revolution now.”
Wong also shared pictures of his island with portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping and World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom at a virtual funeral, with a sign reading “Wuhan pneumonia.”
Nintendo Switch sales only launched in China in December, through a partnership between Nintendo and Tencent. However, multiplayer connections for games may only be accessed by players through foreign editions available on the gray market sites such as Taobao and Pinduoduo.
Since Wong’s tweets, there has been a crackdown against Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Reuters reported.
China censors content, including video games, if the government finds them in violation of the country’s core socialist values. However, it remains unclear if the ban on the sale of the game was ordered by China’s content regulator, or if it was a voluntary act by the digital stores.
To circumvent the action against the game, some Taobao sellers have been trying to direct potential buyers to listings that sell the game without its title in the descriptions.
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