Highly anticipated mobile game Uma Musume Pretty Derby has been abruptly yanked from Chinese app stores only two weeks after launch earlier this month.
As reported by the South China Morning Post, the game - which involves the training of “horse girls” to race and compete in tournaments, and which also features gacha mechanics - was abruptly removed from gaming platform Bilibili on which it has exclusively released. The abruptness of its withdrawal highlighted a potential link between the game’s horse-racing themes and its gacha mechanics which may be seen to encourage real-world gambling - an activity that illegal in China.
The removal of the title represents a major change of stance, given that the game was originally approved for launch during the recent round of game license approvals. The pull seems to have come as a surprise to many, as Bilibi’s share price tumbled by 6.8% after the game was removed.
Choppy waters in China
The breadth of speculation around the withdrawl is indicative of the unclear nature around the game’s removal, with official commentary only extending as far as saying it has been removed for “technical work”.
Such uncertainty may further frustration with the Chinese gaming market, especially as Uma Musume was not only approved for release prior to launch, but that it seems original developer Cygames had worked with Bilibili as their official partner - a requirement for launching a game in China - in the country.
For those now looking to launch games in China the game's sudden withdrawl may only make the country's regulatory environment seem even more hostile.
While there are few developers and publishers who would object to licencing scrutiny or possible localisation changes prior to launch, having a game yanked two weeks after launch - especially one which topped the iOS app store charts for free games on its first day of release - is no doubt a huge frustration.