Thursday, January 19, 2023

EVE Online And Accommodating Chinese Players

Yesterday, someone pointed out to me Crowd Control Productions (CCP) had released a patch note mentioning the Iclandic company had added additional restrictions to prevent citizens of the People's Republic of China from accessing the Tranquility game shard. Today we find out the move was in preparation for additional services for Chinese speaking players.

With Blizzard Entertainment pulling out of its relationship with NetEase Monday, CCP needs to take care on two levels. The first is that not only is NetEase CCP's partner in the PRC running the Serenity game shard, but also develops and publishes EVE Echoes. The company is probably sensitive to Western countries trying to steal its players away right now.

The second is the Iclandic CCP does not want to upset the Chinese Communist Party (also CCP). Upsetting the CCP is a bad idea. The Chinese Communist Party does not like its citizens to play online games on servers outside the country. They are kind of control freaks that way.

The moves announced today possibly do both. A paragraph at the end of the post, "Happy Lunar New Year", might spell trouble.
Simplified Chinese is now live on Tranquility server, catering to the Chinese speaking community and honoring their invaluable contributions to New Eden's history. Union Pay has also been added as a payment processor to provide better service to this player base.
The first point, that the new EVE client is in Simplified Chinese, is a point I would have missed if not for the dustup between Blizzard and NetEase. In an article on Wowhead, I read an interesting passage:
Chinese and Taiwanese players are rather notorious for not getting along, which has been highlighted by a significant spike of newly arrived Chinese players reporting Taiwanese players for writing in traditional Chinese, while long-term Taiwanese players report Chinese players for using simplified Chinese. This kind of mass reporting has become rampant, alongside other issues of discrimination - kicking each other from parties, racial slurs, and politically incendiary comments are becoming common place. Other players have begun creating primers, coaching one another on how to mass report players in an effort to "take over" the realms. [emphasis mine]
I realize southeast Asia has a significant diaspora of ethnic Chinese so perhaps simplified Chinese makes sense. But will something that makes sense to South Koreans and Icelanders make sense to NetEase and Chairman Xi? The leadership of NetEase may understand, but does the most powerful man in China play video games?

Adding UnionPay as a payment processor really raised my eyebrows. Reuters explained what UnionPay is back at the beginning of the current Ukraine-Russia war.
China approved the central bank's creation of UnionPay as a coalition of banking operators in 2002 to allow domestic inter-bank transactions and settlements across different platforms.

Funded by the government and China's largest commercial lenders, UnionPay clears and settles payments directly with banks and licensed lenders by issuing debit, credit and prepaid cards.

It has 87 shareholders including affiliates of the People's Bank of China, commercial lenders such as Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (601398.SS) and China Construction Bank Corp (601939.SS), and rural credit providers.

It enjoyed a monopoly before China allowed foreign payment networks to set up onshore operations in 2020, and in recent years has rapidly expanded overseas.

UnionPay ranked first by number of cards in circulation worldwide as at the end of 2021 with 9.4 billion, showed data from researcher Nilson. Visa had 3.7 billion and Mastercard 2.5 billion.
Before now, the only Chinese-based payment system I knew of was Alipay, which was run by Jack Ma's Alipay group (Jack Ma was removed from control two weeks ago). UnionPay is run by Chinese banks, including by the Chinese central bank. I don't see many people outside the People's Republic using UnionPay services if they could avoid doing so. The ones who would I think live in Russia and UnionPay said no in order to avoid Western sanctions due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps Crowd Control Productions is not attempting to attract EVE players in mainland China to the global Tranquility shard instead of the Chinese shard run by NetEase. But at a time when NetEase is in conflict with Blizzard, I wouldn't blame NetEase for being extra suspicious right now. 

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