Shares of Chinese gaming giant NetEase plunged by 6.7% on Monday after it delayed the local rollout of its video game Diablo Immortal – three days ahead of its official launch.
The move by the internet and gaming giant comes just after the game’s official account on Weibo was banned from making new posts.
NetEase was set to release the game on Thursday, but it has not provided a new launch date yet. It said on Sunday it wanted to make changes, such as improvements to the game-play experience and conduct “multiple optimisation adjustments”.
But the company did not address the social media ban in the statement and it was unclear what triggered the decision. NetEase also did not respond to a request for comment.
Sprawling Games Market
Co-developed by NetEase and Activision Blizzard, Diablo Immortal is one of the most-anticipated games this year and its China launch is being closely watched to gauge Beijing’s attitude towards the country’s $46-billion video games market, which was hit by sweeping regulatory crackdowns last year.
The company received a gaming licence from Chinese regulators for the game last February, before authorities months later rolled out new rules and halted issuances of new game licences for almost nine months.
The nod had garnered attention as the Diablo franchise focuses on slaying demons and witches — themes seen to jar with Chinese regulators’ dislike of games with violent or religious content.
Diablo Immortal was released outside of China on June 2, and according to the app-tracking platform App Magic, it has earned over $24 million during the first two weeks since the rollout.
The China launch was expected to give the title another boost, given the Asian country would be the game’s biggest market.
The title had recorded pre-registrations from over 15 million users last week, according to NetEase. Shares fell by more than 9% early on Monday but recovered to be 6.7% down at the close of trading.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara and Jim Pollard.
This report was updated with further information on June 20, 2022.