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The Ways Shanghai's Food Crisis Is Impacting Chinese Game Devs

For the past few days, Genshin Impact players have been speculating about how extended lockdowns and food crises in Shanghai have been affecting the game’s development. The promised teapot event was never released, and the Serenitea housing system has been in extended maintenance mode since the beginning of April. Kotaku has now confirmed that the extended lockdown in Shanghai has been taking a toll on HoYoverse and other Chinese game developers.

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Shanghai has been in extended covid-19 lockdowns since March 28, due to the national government’s stringent zero-covid policy. The city’s case numbers have exceeded 27,000 people, which Reuters characterized as China’s “worst covid-19 outbreak since the virus first emerged in Wuhan.” The city has also been struggling to feed its 25 million residents due to a lack of delivery personnel, quarantine rules, and supply chain shortages.

Signs are emerging that the ongoing lockdown is negatively impacting Chinese developers. Shanghai is one of the largest game development hubs in the country. Aside from local companies such as HoYoverse and Tencent, the city also hosts western-owned AAA studios such as Ubisoft, EA, and Activision Blizzard.

Jingtong Zhu, a publishing manager at a Chinese gaming company, told Kotaku that gaming is not currently being impacted as much as other industries, but “a lot” of people in games are worried about obtaining food or getting infected by coronavirus. The government provides free vegetables to residents, but some of her colleagues struggle to cook raw ingredients without kitchens. She said that large companies typically deliver food to employees who need supplies, but the deliveries are significantly delayed by the lockdown.

Travis Ryan is a game developer who lives and works in Shanghai. His work on the indie mobile game Mr. Traffic was relatively unaffected, since his studio was already remote. However, he told Kotaku that his life felt like “house arrest with no parole.”

Despite the inconveniences of lockdown, Ryan was optimistic about the sense of community he says has developed around Shanghai’s shared struggles. People in his neighborhood have been dressing up for coronavirus tests, performing balcony stunts, editing videos, and posting memes on the internet.

He added that developers such as Bilibili, NetEase, Riot, and Microsoft have been supporting staff with care packages, offering culinary lessons to younger developers, and restricting meetings so that staff could spend time with their families. Ryan was optimistic that the industry would “weather the storm,” but that larger companies might experience some changes as staff seek “a change in scenery.”

On April 1, HoYoverse told Kotaku that its physical office would be closed until the 5th. On Tuesday, the studio provided Kotaku with the following statement:

The lockdown may explain why the limited-time event “Spices From The West” was quietly removed from the roadmap the official Genshin Impact account tweeted Wednesday. The event relied on the Serenitea housing mechanic, which is still undergoing extended maintenance.

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