PUBG is facing a comprehensive ban on esports and streaming in China, spelling disaster for the PUBG Global Championship and the esports scene as a whole.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has received a comprehensive ban on streaming and PUBG esports in China. This is due to the lack of approval by the government.
Fans first started noticing issues several days ago, when streaming platforms DouYu and Huya began censoring the game. Logos have been removed and the category names have been changed to "Chicken Game" and "Daily Chicken Dinner".
Now though, the game has seen a nearly complete ban on broadcasting. This means no PUBG esports and little streaming. PUBG has always been an unapproved game in China, but given Tencent's part-ownership of the game and it's monstrous popularity in Asia, it always held a comfortable position. Now, in the course of a few days, that has all changed.
Exactly why the Chinese government - and specifically the National Press and Publication Administration, the body in charge of game regulation - has changed their tune is unknown. It's speculated that it may be the government wanting to crack down on Steam, as an overseas platform. Ultimately, however, it spells disaster for the game in China and the esports scene as a whole.
What will happen to PCS5 and PGC?
PUBG teams in China have always been very competitive. The Four Angry Men (4AM) organization in particular brought the game into the mainstream there in a way we've rarely seen before - perhaps the best comparison is to Karmine Corp in French League of Legends. Now, teams such as NewHappy and Petrichor Road are among some of the World's best. Many of the best players in the world come from China, too, such as PeRo's Zuo "Aixleft" Zi Xuan and Infantry fragger Deng "LongSkr" Ruilong.
Currently, six Chinese teams are participating in the PUBG Continental Series 5 Asia. It's unlikely we'll see that event affected too much, as there's only a week left of competition. The PUBG Global Championship, however, is in more doubt. Slated to take place in several months, the event functions as PUBG's World Championship, bringing the best teams from across the world. Two Chinese teams, NewHappy and Petrichor Road, have already qualified, while several more are on the brink.
For most teams, that event is taking place in South Korea. Chinese teams were already slated to play from China, due to COVID-19. However, it's unknown if they'll even be allowed to participate anymore.
All in all, the move spells disaster for Asian PUBG. One of the world's most competitive regions is being wiped out. For players and organizations that want to continue, they may be forced to move.
Chinese censorship is hitting more than just PUBG
Censorship of games by the Chinese government has been in the esports news lately for more than just PUBG. VALORANT, Riot Games' strategic shooter, was just recently allowed to release in the country. Even in that case, however, it's still in the same limbo as PUBG - technically allowed, but not fully approved. Things could change in a snap with VALORANT just like they did with PUBG. In addition, the government has been increasingly restricting gaming hours for kids and teens. That kind of regulation isn't anything new to Asia - South Korea has implemented similar policies in the past. But it's still a worrying trend.