Kairosoft Accuses Chinese Publisher Of Stealing Its Games

A shot of popular Kairosoft title Game Dev Story

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Kairosoft Accuses Chinese Publisher Of Stealing Its Games

October 20, 2021

By: Joseph Allen

 
 

Pocket Academy and Game Dev Story developer Kairosoft has accused Beijing Shi Jun, its publisher in China, of stealing code for its games and violating the terms of a contract between the two companies. Supposedly, Beijing Shi Jun has been operating Kairosoft games in China without the developer's consent, and has been making copycat titles as well.

What do we know about the Kairosoft situation?

This news originally appeared via a letter Kairosoft wrote to its players informing them of the situation with Beijing Shi Jun. The Japanese developer confirmed that the contents of the letter are genuine; it's entirely in Japanese, though, so we're using this Reddit post to help inform the translation of the letter. The letter essentially alleges that the studio terminated its contract with Beijing Shi Jun in 2018, but that the Chinese publisher ignored the termination notice. Instead of ending the contract, Beijing Shi Jun supposedly carried on operating Kairosoft service games, as well as stealing source code for those games and using it to create low-quality ripoff titles like Three Kingdom Tale and Inn in Chang'an.

Pocket Academy, one of Kairosoft's most famous games
Kairosoft's most famous games include Pocket AcademyGame Dev Story, and Dungeon Village.

The situation between the two companies has reportedly been volatile since they initially signed a publishing agreement in 2017. Beijing Shi Jun apparently encouraged players to pre-order Kairosoft games without the developer's approval, which led to players losing faith in the developer's games in China. In addition, Beijing Shi Jun didn't provide Kairosoft with information regarding its games' performance or revenue in China, meaning the developer had no idea how its games were doing in one of the world's biggest markets. Indeed, the open letter penned by Kairosoft was originally posted on Chinese mobile store TapTap's forum, but the post was deleted.

What's the situation with Kairosoft and Beijing Shi Jun now?

According to the aforementioned Reddit post, Kairosoft has managed to find a new Chinese publisher for its games. However, the previous contract is apparently still full of "legal traps", meaning it's going to take some time for the Japanese mobile giant to disentangle itself from this web. Chinese news platform Sohu reports (we're using machine translation for this link) that operation of Kairosoft's games will be terminated in China on December 14th, at which point all servers for games released in that territory will be closed. Apparently, this is by order of Beijing Shi Jun, so perhaps the publisher is intending to honor some of its contractual obligations after all.

 
 
Dungeon Village, one of Kairosoft's most well-known games
Kairosoft games have a pretty distinctive visual style.

This comes as the Chinese gaming industry is coming under greater scrutiny from Beijing. Last month, more than 200 Chinese developers and gaming-adjacent companies pledged stricter self-regulation in response to the government's crackdown on gaming. State-owned media has referred to gaming as "spiritual opium", and premier Xi Jinping is in the middle of a campaign to more strictly regulate Chinese capitalism (thanks, Bloomberg), suggesting that companies will have to toe the line much more closely if they want to escape unscathed. Despite this, China is a huge market for the gaming industry, with companies like Valve establishing China-exclusive versions of platforms and software in the country. We've reached out to Kairosoft for comment on this story and will bring you more as we get it.

How do you feel about the story of Kairosoft and Beijing Shi Jun? Let us know in the comments below!

Joe Allen's profile picture
Staff Writer

Dark Souls changed my life, and I'm here to spread the good news. I like pretty much all sorts of games, but I judge everything by its proximity to our Lord and saviour, Dark Souls.

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