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JD.com removes ‘vulgar’ and ‘violent’ games such as Fifa and Call of Duty from platform

Most players in China buy games directly from overseas shops online as China’s gaming market operates in a legal gray area

China’s second-largest e-commerce site JD.com has removed unlicensed video games on its platform after the country introduced laws that will limit gamers under the age of 18 to an hour of video games on Fridays, weekends and holidays.

The platform said it would ban any game that violates either China’s constitution or national security law, as well as those that promote vulgarity, pornography, gambling and violence.

Separately, JD.com announced that its founder Richard Liu Qiangdong has stepped down and handed over the reins. Liu has been embroiled in allegations of raping a female student attending the University of Minnesota.

While he was briefly detained by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the criminal charges against him were eventually dropped. However, the civil lawsuit from the student remains ongoing.

Why are the games being removed?

  • Most players in China buy games directly from overseas shops online as China’s gaming market operates in a legal gray area. There are also parallel importers on e-commerce sites far beyond the government’s jurisdiction.

  • For example, when Alibaba stopped selling the popular zombie shooting game Resident Evil 2: Remake in 2019, vendors continued selling the game under a code name, with hand-drawn art as posters.

  • The code for the game was ‘First Day on the Job at the Police Station: Remake’, about the game’s plot where the protagonist was a rookie police officer whose first day coincided with a zombie apocalypse.

  • The implementation of the new rule requires real names to be used in China, which means unlicensed games that are not plugged into the system can elude restrictions.

  • This is changing after the government arrested 54 parallel importers in April, confiscating ¥78m ($11.9m) in smuggled games consoles made by Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, according to the National Anti-Smuggling Bureau.

  • 86 games, including Super Mario Maker 2, Fifa 21, The Last of Us Part 2, the entire Call of Duty series and the entire Grand Theft Auto series, will be taken off the JD.com platform.

Liu hands over the presidency

  • Liu’s duties will be taken over by Xu Lei, the chief executive of JD Retail, who has been promoted to president of JD to run “day-to-day operations”. Liu will instead focus on long-term strategies and rural development moving forward.

  • Liu’s decision to step down appears to be in line with China’s regulatory clampdown on the big tech sector, with the government urging the wealthy to contribute to ‘common prosperity’.

  • For example, Jack Ma, Zhang Yiming and Colin Huang, the founders of Alibaba, Bytedance and Pinduoduo, have handed over the reins of their respective companies in recent times.

  • “JD has a sound management structure with a large number of excellent business leaders, who, represented by Mr Lei Xu, have a strong belief in JD’s long-term business philosophy, proven leadership capabilities and extensive industry experience,” said Liu.

  • “Looking to the future, the correct long-term strategic design, the growth and development of young talent, and the healthy and coordinated development of various business units will continue to be the driving force for JD in doing the hardest and most challenging, but right and most valuable, things for the industry.”

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