Japanese video game giant Nintendo has told gamers about its hit creation Animal Crossing: New Horizons to stop adding political or commercial content after a number of users around the world – including Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigns – started posting their own messages.
Nintendo told companies and organizations in a press release Thursday to “refrain from bringing politics into play” and said those who violated the guidelines could be banned.
Crossing animals has been a hit since its launch in March, selling over 20 million copies in September. It allows users to create tools, decorations and other creature conveniences from scratch on their own desert islands.
However, some users have used its features to send political messages.
In Hong Kong, some players have created pro-democracy and anti-government content, including flags with protest slogans such as “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution in our time”, funeral photographs of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and “villain-striking” sessions aimed at Hong Kong leader Carrie Lamb.
The game is since taken from the Chinese gray market’s online shopping platforms.
Elected US President Joe Biden is also among those hoping to capitalize on the game’s popularity. Biden’s campaign launched its own virtual island last month, where players could “sign up” at the island’s campaign headquarters and visit polling stations. Under the new guidelines, the island is likely to be banned.
Activist Joshua Wong told HKFP that he had participated in a series of virtual protests in the game this year.
“What Animal Crossing represented was not only entertainment during the lockdown, but also a reflection of real-life events. It provides an alternative when institutional channels of expression are limited, ”he said.
“It’s a shame that Nintendo overlooked the importance of this game.”