May 29, 2012 / 7:53 AM / 8 years ago

Chinese online gamers use "big pineapple" to sidestep sales ban

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese gamers looking to buy Activision Blizzard’s hit game “Diablo 3” ahead of its official China launch are using keywords like “America’s big pineapple” to search for the game online after the country’s leading e-commerce platform shut down sales at the request of the government.

Taobao Marketplace, Alibaba Group’s top consumer-to-consumer e-commerce website, announced on Monday it would ban the unlicensed sale of computer games and items found in games that have not been approved by China’s Ministry of Culture, specifically mentioning “Diablo 3,” which is the fastest-selling game of all time, according to its maker.

The ban cuts off a key channel in which Chinese gamers can buy unlicensed versions of the fantasy role-playing game from Taiwan. Video games in China have to be approved by the Ministry of Culture and the General Administration of Press and Publication before they can be officially launched.

NetEase Inc, Activision Blizzard’s partner in China, said “Diablo 3” is currently under review by Chinese authorities and an official launch date would depend on when approval is granted. Game makers often have to alter their titles to comply with Chinese censors.

China has a global reputation for pirated videos and fake goods and game sellers know how to navigate around the often murky regulations to capitalize on the popularity of games and other media products.

Sellers on the Taobao Marketplace have resorted to using words like “big pineapple” that sound like Diablo in Mandarin to help buyers find the game. Other vendors are even attaching pictures of pineapples to their listings.

“Diablo 3” is the fastest-selling computer game of all time, Activision Blizzard said, with 3.5 million units sold in the first 24 hours after its May 15 launch. The previous PC game that held the record was a “World of Warcraft” expansion set called “World of Warcraft Cataclysm” that was released in 2010 and sold 3.3 million units on its first day.

China is the world’s largest Internet market with more than 450 million users and more than 300 million play online games.

Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Matt Driskill

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