Tencent to block Chinese players’ access to unapproved foreign games

By Josh Ye

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Tencent Holdings Ltd said it would shut down a service that allowed Chinese gamers to access foreign platforms to play unapproved foreign games, in a sign of increased compliance as regulators Chinese are taking a closer look at the industry.

The nation’s largest social and gaming company announced late Wednesday that it will be updating its game speed-boosting mobile and desktop apps to new versions on May 31 that will only support games running in China. New versions will no longer allow users to access foreign games.

Tencent first launched the apps in 2018. These apps, which other companies like NetEase Inc also offer, act as network speed-up tools that help users boost their internet speed.

Unlike most countries, players in China are only allowed to play government-approved titles and are not allowed to play with foreigners on foreign servers. While these foreign games aren’t explicitly blocked by online restrictions, local internet speeds are generally too slow for players to access.

As such, many gamers in China have used these apps in practice to access unapproved foreign games such as Nintendo Co Ltd’s hit Grand Theft Auto or Animal Crossing. Over the years, apps have also become gray area channels for overseas game developers to reach users in the world’s largest game market.

Tencent declined to provide further comment on why it decided to make changes to the app.

This decision was greeted with dismay by Chinese players, but many also said it was not surprising.

“It’s normal given the direction things are going. It’s harder to be a day gamer in China,” one Chinese netizen wrote on the Weibo microblogging site.

The move comes days after China lifted a nine-month freeze on game licensing. During this period, gaming companies, including Tencent, have made major adjustments to their business practices to comply with regulatory demands.

(Reporting by Josh Ye; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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