China bans Animal Crossing: New Horizons - but it's complicated

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has turned into quite the hit for Nintendo, and even though it isn't officially available in China, Switch owners there have found ways to play it. Chinese players have mostly obtained Animal Crossing: New Horizons either by switching their region on the eShop to buy games from other countries or by purchasing imported physical copies. Unfortunately, it seems that it just became a lot harder for those gamers to buy an imported copy of the New Horizons.

As reported by Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad on Twitter today, Chinese regulators have forbidden resellers on Taobao from selling imported copies of the game. Ahmad says that those regulators are more or less citing an old policy dating back to 2017, in which Taobao banned the sale of imported games but rarely chose to enforce it outside of special circumstances.

Ahmad explains that when this policy is enforced, it's either because the game has grown so popular that it's "caught the attention of regulators," or because the game "has content or user generated content that is deemed to be too offensive or violent." He also notes that Animal Crossing: New Horizons ticks both boxes, pointing to users who have used the game's custom design tool to make items in support of Hong Kong protestors.

While Taobao can no longer sell the game, Switch owners in the region aren't entirely out of luck, not even when it comes to importing a physical copy. Ahmad states that prospective buyers can likely still find copies at smaller Mom & Pop stores that deal in imports. They could even potentially reach out Taobao sellers directly, as they will often sell the game privately as well.

Still, it's an interesting turn of events, and it leaves us wondering if Animal Crossing: New Horizons will ever be officially approved for sale in China. If it does, the version of New Horizons we see there could be vastly different from the version that's available in the rest of the world. We'll let you know what happens from here, so stay tuned for more.