NetEase delays Diablo Immortal's China launch, shares tumble
HONG KONG, June 20 (Reuters) - Internet and gaming giant NetEase (9999.HK) delayed the rollout of its video game Diablo Immortal in China three days ahead of its official launch, a move that comes just after the game's official account on Weibo was banned from making new posts.
China-based NetEase, which was set to release the game on Thursday, did not provide a new launch date, but said on Sunday it wanted to make changes such as improvements to the game-play experience and conduct "multiple optimization adjustments".
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 Reuters' request for comment.
Co-developed by NetEase and Activision Blizzard (ATVI.O), 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 that was hit by sweeping regulatory crackdowns last year.
The company received a gaming license from Chinese regulators for the game last February, before authorities months later rolled out new rules and halted issuances of new game licenses 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 already released outside of China on June 2, and as per 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 as 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 of the company slid more than 9% on Monday.
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