MiHoYo has announced that four of Genshin Impact’s playable characters will soon have their default attire censored on Chinese servers.
Images “for illustrative purposes only and are not indicative of the final product” were also shown, and MiHoYo also emphasized that “the default outfits of the above characters will be retained.”
Fans were quick to compare the two designs, pointing to the costumes as they appeared in the recent 2.4 update, and noted that, in an assumed effort to make them less sexualized, the changes to the costumes covered more of the girls’ skin [1, 2, 3].
These changes include changing Rosaria’s fish-net tights to regular tights, covering any cleavage or skin-tight clothing around the chest, and lengthening clothing to better cover the buttocks and upper thighs around the crotch.
As reported by some players, these outfit changes appear to have only been made mandatory in the game’s Chinese client [1, 2], with the original costumes being made available to Global players as a selectable outfit.
Chinese servers also allegedly saw another drastic instance of censorship, as while characters would previously turn translucent or invisible should the camera be brought to close to them while gliding, the characters now practically vanish when viewed from any low camera angle.
This move was likely to prevent any “up-skirts,” or the focusing of the camera on a female character’s buttocks.
After all, the proposal is certainly in line with recent changes made to the Communist government’s video game content policies.
In August 2021, the state-run Xinhua affiliate Economic Information Daily condemned Tencent’s Honor of Kings as “spiritual opium,” claiming the game was too addicting as children could play for up to eight hours a day. The report cost Tencent $60 billion in market capitalisation.
The state-run news group then called on the government to implement stricter measures against the gaming industry. Soon after, Tencent announced that they would be taking measures, starting with Honor of Kings, to reduce the time and money players under 12-years old spent on their games.
One month later, an internal memo from the Chinese government’s training course for the Chinese gaming association leaked online. Slides from the presentation and subsequent reports indicated even stricter content rules were coming for video games.
According to those guidelines, games sold in China would not be allowed to glorify foreign military, encourage superstitions, have players become or defeat gods, spotlight the developers’ “personal agenda,” include fan-service, smoking, drinking, violence, and more.
Following in the footsteps of a similar policy implemented for television programs, the authoritarian state also declared a ban on games featuring gay or effeminate men. The slide itself singled out Genshin Impact’s Venti as one such example.
Those claiming to be in discussion with Chinese players also shared the discussion over the changes. As the announcement was discussed on the /r/Genshin_Impact subreddit, wanwuwi claimed, “In the CN version of this announcement, Mihoyo made an apology along with 1200 apologems” – or Primogems, the premium currency used in the game’s gacha system to earn characters like Rosaria, Jean, and Mona.
“Seems like this outfit will replace the original skin in CN only whilst other servers can have it as an alternate outfit on top of the old ones,” they added.
Offering an alleged translation of the announcement as posted on popular Chinese gaming forum NGA, Twitter user 101 also reported that fans in China were getting 1,200 Primogems as compensation for the costumes’ removals.
In the alleged NGA announcement, MiHoYo wrote, “in response to the relevant review requirements, we will adjust some characters and performances in the game in the 2.4 version update on January 5 and the subsequent 2.5 version update.”
“We apologize for the inconvenience caused by this hasty adjustment,” they apologized. The developer then acknowledged that said adjustments were the aforementioned censorship of character costumes and the “specific perspective in flight.”
“We are well aware for the love and attention that travelers have for the characters, and we also understand everyone’s dissatisfaction with this hasty adjustment,” MiHoYo asserted before promising that the original costumes would be “distributed in the form of spare clothing as soon as possible.”
In another Reddit thread, /u/Pichucandy told others, “Im just a dude who frequents NGA to look for news and stuff. I saw some posts here where people say that this will become another Bunny Girl incident from Honkai where everyone just gets the short end of the stick after Chinese complaints.”
For those unfamiliar, the Bunny Girl’ incident saw MiHoyo introduce a set of unlockable bunny girl costumes for the game’s characters to its Global server.
However, thanks to the government’s strict content regulations, these costumes were made unavailable to Chinese players.
In response, upset at being treated differently than the rest of the world, players in the region grew outraged.
As a result, MiHoYo removed the costumes wholesale, as well as a promotional YouTube video featuring some of the game’s bunny-outfit clad characters dancing to an original song, on the grounds that that they were “out of character and inappropriate.”
Making matters worse, several days later, a man was arrested for planning the murder-suicide of miHoYo’s founders, reportedly due to his being “upset by the recent changes” made to the game.
In light of these events, /u/Pichicandy sought to make known some of the specific complaints leveled by Chinese players towards these new costumes, explaining, “This makes me feel that i should give some information on how Chinese players are taking it so that overreactions from global side doesnt become a thing.”
PichuCandy claimed that Chinese players were “upset that the outfits are being changed,” noting that “Alot of them expressed sullen moods despite a noticably great update from 2.4 with the new area and archon quest.”
“There are many posts which Chinese players acknowledge that MHY didnt [sic] do this out of their own will, but there is really nothing they can do knowing who is behind it,” they added. “There are some posts asking for refunds from MHY but a noticable [sic] number of replies did say that MHY isnt [sic] at fault.”
“During the Honkai incident, hostility was directed at the Global versions. But this time, hostility is actually directed towards an internal group,” PichuCandy continued. “There is a group of minority female players in Douban (a CN social networking service) that has been reporting female character designs to the authorities and a post has been circulating NGA where the members are celebrating the changes, and are going for Shenhe and Ganyu next.”
They further asserted, “Alot [sic] of posts in NGA are directing their hostility to this group, and some are thinking of counter measures. Note that i do not know if this groups did indeed succeed and MHY changes are because of their reports. But the general consensus of chinese players seem to blame them.”
Turning to another complaint, PichuCandy wrote, “There was a post where the op says that all versions should be changed for ‘equality’. But the majority of upvoted replies to that was telling that poster to f–k off, and there is no reason everyone should suffer for this.”
“I want to add that alot [sic] of CN players expressed that they are happy with GI’s popularity overseas and the fact that it serves as a form of cultural export/exchange which is rare for China,” they clarified. “So they are understandably disappointed when their own censorship might affect others overseas. To quote one of the posters ‘It seems the greatest enemy to genshin’s success is not competitors, but CN themselves.”
“So i hope the above points can give some clarity on what is going on on their end.” PichuCandy concluded their recap. “I dont [sic] want there to be unnecessary global hostility to chinese players for no reason, and as as a result it negative spirals into hostility towards everyone and the situation gets worse. (eg, All servers outfits changed)”
Another user, /u/Bigqbu, claimed to be “a Chinese who has lived overseas for 10 years due to travel and work,” and offered a syooised “Chinese Perspective” on the changes.
To the surprise of many, the thread was later deleted by the Genshin Impact SubReddit moderators for “Unbased speculations.” How the moderators reached this determination, as well as why other threads discussing Chinese player perspectives have remained untouched, currently remains unclear.
Another thread discussing “What’s with all the people defending censorship?” was also deleted for being “misleading (strawman),” with moderators justifying its removal by pointing to the subreddit’s 11th rule: “Moderators may remove submissions with repetitive content or certain generic topics for overall subreddit quality.”
Nonetheless, a cached version of bigqbu’s thread shows bigqbu reinforcing some of the claims others have made. “Based on my knowledge here is possibly what happened. Let us start with the how Chinese censorship works.”
“Chinese censorship have set of rules , which is usually strict and ambiguous at the same time,” bigqbu said. “Also, the implementation of such censorship is often not based on the rules (if it is based on rules, then pretty much everything will be censored, which is not the case here).”
“The implementation of censorship mainly based on set of things,” explained bigqbu before moving to list this criteria, starting with the first point, “Is there anyone who report to the authority?”
As they told other users of the subreddit, “In this case, there is an organized vocal ‘feminist’s group’ constantly report [sic] the Genshin for too sexy, this is there link. The group is based on Douban (A female dominated platform) and they are ‘women only ‘genshin impact discussion group.”
“If you can read Chinese,” bigqbu claimed “you can see they are really happy now and make fun of anyone who complains. I am not saying feminisms is bad because these people are not real Feminist’s for equal rights as you see in the west. It’s a very specific context of’ Chinese feminism’ and I have 0 interest in political debate as I just try to use my Ganyu to biu.biu.biu.”
The group seem to refer to each other as “sisters” and regularly discuss what to do if fellow members are abused online (such as reporting them to the police), what to do if they suspect a member is actually a man.
A screenshot bigqbu took to show “evidence of their reporting” has since been deleted from Chinese social media platform Bilibili.
(It should be noted that discussions about “breaking defenses” and seemingly mocking those who insulted them may not be accurately translated.)
The second major factor bigqbu pointed to was “Political factors (individual and social level).”
“So, this is where things get messed,” they clarified. “Basically, CCP generally really love Genshin and its money and influence overseas, which they indeed get a lot of privileges in the censor part. It’s seen as the culture export project.”
“However, CCP is not an monolith organizations as many could believe,” they continued. “Genshin’s original skin was somehow on the borderline of censor rules. So, let’s say now it is close to the end of the Chinese new year and each department will usually have set of actions to show to the public that they did something.”
bigqbu maintained, “The media censorship department often just do some shitty censors for the games as many parents hate ‘gaming industry for ruin their kids study’. Plus, in the genshin case, there is an report from the feminist group, so government kind of have to react for the ‘social harmony ‘ reasons.”
“Basically,” bigqbu summarized, “some Chinese version of sjw consists of old generation and feminist , plus the crappy censorship system which is never transparent, and the government officials try to show the general public, which is usually an mid-aged man with conservative thoughts, that they are doing someting (There are tons of games which are much more sexier than Genshin is not affected, but Genshin is like the ‘big fish’).”
Turning to what this could mean for the future, bigqbu speculated, “TBH, the most possible scenario is that the Chinese server will stay with the censored version, while overseas serve get the ‘original version’ like many other games.”
“There is also a chance that after Chinese new year , the government officials have less pressure from their performance evaluation and relaxed little bit. And even CN server get the original ones,” they hoped. “If you notice, they started from the less popular characters [Amber is obtainable in-game via completing a quest, while the other characters are 4-star characters who have been in the game for quite a while] to somehow kind of negotiate and show a gesture that they ‘listen to the government’.”
“But government know MIHOYO help them export Chinese culture revenue ,” biqbu admtted. “So it probably they still have some leverage. (Info about other characters are still rumors yet to be confirmed).
Thus, he declared, “the conclusion is that, Overseas Server will keep what they have now. It’s mainly a CN server thing. Also, keep in mind, there is less likely some ‘grand master plan of CCP mind control’ behind this.”
“The games are seen as ‘kids entertainment’ by CCP and they usually give 0 f–k unless someone complains,” they wrote. “Because all the original skins were already verified back then at the time they releases, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to publish the game back then.”
They added, “It’s more about a messed situation that :(1)stupid and inconsistent censorship system and officials which go back and forth , (2)bunch of old dudes who might think games ruin their kids grades, (3)some ‘Chinese feminisms’ believe video games are too sexy, are all try to push their narrative at this moment and then they pick the easiest target…which is the otaku genshin players in China to mess with…”
Ultimately, bigqbu concluded, “PS. I mean everyone know this censorship is dumb and inconsistent, but the real interesting part is the logistics behind this.”
While most fans objected to the original announcements on the grounds that the redesigns both looked worse and were the result of capitulation to the Chinese government, like many instances before, Genshin Impact’s transgressions have not yet appeared to push fans past their boiling point.
For example, when fans were outraged over meager One Year Anniversary contest prizes and the contests themselves essentially serving as free promotion for the game, or when western fans drew ire for being able to obtain a”KFC glider” through the purchase of Twitch subscriptions, outcry quickly died out. In the case of the former, fans were even given free Primogems.
In October 2020, players discovered that the words “Hong Kong” and “Taiwan” were censored in multiplayer chat. Likewise, that same months saw fans express concern over the fact that Rosaria seemingly had her chest size reduced in her transition from NPC to playable character. Yet, players continued on.
In the case of the latter however, arguments could be made that the reduction was done for gameplay reasons in order to bring her model closer in line to those of other polearm users. This may also explain why Rosario seems to be slightly shorter in her censored 2.4 update costume.
However, though these costume changes are ensured for the next update, it seems that MiHoYo is growing tired of China’s stringent regulations.
In December 2021, shortly after the game launched on the Epic Game Store, it was noted the game was now published by Singapore company Cognosphere [1, 2, 3]. Other miHoYo games like Tears of Themis shortly followed.
MiHoYo explained in their official announcement of this change that it was being done “to ensure the safety and convenience of online transactions,” and noted that they would be looking for “more eligible payment options globally.”
It seems other Chinese tech companies are considering the move to Singapore, as Alibaba and Tencent are also looking to set-up international headquarters in the sovereign Asian city-stte
Nonetheless, it is unlikely any of the above will fully move out of China, as the Chinese government is unlikely to risk losing the financial and cultural benefits of products such as Genshin Impact, which made $1 billion in its first six months alone.
However, the question remains: how much will censorship like this harm Genshin Impact’s profits at home? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!