This article needs a quick bit of backstory: Chinese doctor Li Wenliang was one of the first whistleblowers for the current COVID-19 epidemic; he was targeted by Chinese authorities for rumor-mongering, but after his unfortunate death in February, the government offered a “solemn apology” and mandated a day of mourning. That day was April 4th and put a halt to entertainment services – such as mobile and online games, including the MMORPG JX3 Online, a popular title in China and Taiwan, the latter of which is still the subject of an ongoing sovereignty battle.
And so our story begins, thanks to one Taiwanese Redditor’s posts. As now substantiated by other news reports and official website, the Kingsoft-run Chinese version of the title followed the government mandate, while the Taiwanese version operated by WANIN International merely held a three-hour “maintenance window” before going back online.
According to the Redditor, who attempts to explain what transpired between the official postings, JX3’s Taiwanese players then clashed with Chinese players and Kingsoft staff over in-game discussion of the virus and politics until bans were issued and chat was shut down entirely, leading players to protest using guild board names and nicknames. It sounds as if Kingsoft demanded that the Taiwanese publisher WANIN control its players, and WANIN refused, posting that it “insists on safeguarding the rights of Taiwanese players to speak.”
“If the original publisher insists on standardizing the existing speech environment in Taiwan, we will not hesitate to terminate the contract and stop any commercial cooperation with Chinese manufacturers,” reads a Google-translated update on WANIN’s site. Then later the same day, WANIN announced a shutdown for the game, though it’s not entirely clear whether the final call came from Kingsoft or WANIN itself. Here’s that (terrible) translation:
“Thank you for your WANIN International support and care. According to the internet connection service standard contract, game JX3 Online will cease operations in 2020 is expected to be at 12:00 on May 5 related refund rules. The WANIN operations team will be announced separately.”
The game had been running for a decade, so this ought to be be a blow to the playerbase, but the Redditor claims many Taiwanese players are celebrating because WANIN stood up to what they viewed as political oppression.