The hit Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been removed from sale from some of China‘s biggest websites after players used the game to stage virtual protests against the Chinese government.
In New Horizons, players are able to decorate their in-game environments with custom patterns, which they can then screenshot and share online.
And certain players have been using the pattern creation tool to produce widely-shared images of Chinese president Xi Jinping and pro-democracy slogans.
Well-known activist Joshua Wong took to Twitter to share a screenshot of his own island with a banner that reads: “Free Hong Kong, revolution now.”
Tech news site Ping West has claimed that a message was sent to sellers on the Alibaba-owned website Taobao, China’s equivalent of eBay, late on Thursday, demanding that the site ban all sales of Animal Crossing products.
The game was not officially available in China, but had been available to buy in an imported form from grey market commerce sites.
According to games industry analyst Daniel Ahmad, “Taobao ‘banned’ the sale of imported video game discs and cartridges back in 2017, but this is something that hasn’t really been enforced all that much, only on select games”.
It’s not the first time people have used New Horizons‘s multiplayer for real-world purposes. After the ongoing pandemic meant one couple had to abandon their wedding plans, they took to the virtual world of Animal Crossing to celebrate their nuptials online.