Four years later, Rocket League finally comes to China
There’s no blood, no nudity and no politics, so why did Chinese authorities take so long to approve Rocket League?
Rocket League is finally coming out in China this week, over four years after it originally released.
Chinese gamers are used to long delays as games wait for government approval, but even by those standards, the wait for Rocket League has been something else.
Games often go through a lengthy approval process as China’s strict censors look to scrub violence, sex, gambling, alcohol, superstition or political elements from games.
But Rocket League is just soccer with cars. There are no people, no blood, no nudity and no politics -- just cars. And yet this game took over two years to approve for release in China, which many find baffling.
“It is absolutely ridiculous,” said Charlie Moseley, founder of Chengdu Gaming Federation. “The only thing I could attribute it to is the incredible amount of regulatory approval which is required for games to be released in China in this era.”
Rocket League isn’t alone. Fortnite, arguably the biggest game in the world right now, isn’t much of a hit in China. While Tencent released the game in the country, it hasn’t secured official approval for monetization -- a key feature in a country obsessed with outfitting characters with unique gear, no matter what the cost.
Luis Wong of the Beijing-based publisher Indienova said it’s part of the perils of bringing a game to China.
“That's how the process works,” Wong said, pointing out that even a giant like Tencent isn’t immune. “Publishers should think that it will take at least six to nine months to get the game out, if they are lucky.”
We reached out to Tencent for comment on this story, but have yet to hear back.
Making the situation more frustrating for Chinese gamers is that, at one point, they could play Rocket League. It was available on the international version of Steam, which also isn’t officially available in the country but isn't blocked either. Once Tencent announced an official Chinese version, though, the game became inaccessible.
Some players now fear that it’s too late for Rocket League, a global phenomenon with over 50 million players and a growing esports scene, to take off in China.
“There certainly will be players. At least more players than when it was on beta. But by how it looks now, it doesn’t seem like it will catch on,” a gamer wrote on a Baidu forum.
Rocket League probably won’t be the last game to suffer a huge delay. Moseley says that’s the cost of business when working with games in China.
“Nothing is easy, nothing is fast, and everything is subject to restrictions and controls unlike anywhere else.”