‘Sheep a Sheep’ game going viral in China despite strict gaming regulations

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A new game called “sheep a sheep” is rapidly gaining popularity among the Chinese population. Tencent and ByteDances’ Douyin own the integrated version of an internet messaging app called “WeChat.” Users can play the game from within the app.

The developer of the game, Beijing Jianyou Technology, was founded last year in January 2021 and the game was registered in late July this year, and the game was released in early September 2022 inside WeChat and Douyin, according to Tianyancha (a popular business database).

While the sheep a sheep game was able to acquire release approval relatively quickly even with tougher rules, Beijing’s disapproval of the gaming industry and new rules being implemented that minors are only allowed to play 3 hours of video game per week during weekends since April 2021, NetEase’s first game took over 10 months to receive release approval after the company registered it and this was major because of the nature of the game “sheep a sheep.”

The game does not contain any in-game purchases, and according to rules, the administration’s approval for a game license is necessary if the game has in-app purchases. The main catch here is that the game is completely free to play; if out of life, you have to watch a 30 seconds advertisement for another chance. This made the game get approved relatively quickly as there are no clear rules for approval regarding games like sheep a sheep.

A senior analyst from Forrester, Xiaofeng Wang said, “For a developer, it’s very cost-effective, and I think they are generating revenue already,” she said. “Even if the popularity cannot last for a long time, it’s still a good thing, nothing to lose for them. They already gained a lot out of this.”

The sheep a sheep game attracts people by claiming that “only 0.1% of people can complete this game,” and the gameplay changes from relatively easy to harder and harder in difficulty, which gets people addicted. Another analyst named Brian Tycangco said, “Sheep a Sheep just went viral these past few days. Very fresh to everyone, especially regulators, so the impact isn’t that clear yet; people might lose interest in it just as fast as they were attracted”.