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NetEase Issues Official Response to Onmyoji Crisis

By Cecil Gao
Jun. 22, 2022 updated 09:47

Today, NetEase Games has officially responded to the crisis around its mobile game Onmyoji. Not long ago, rumors circulated that members of the game’s staff were threatening to make certain in-game characters ugly intentionally.

The whole incident started months ago when a group of ghostwriters who were hired to recommend Onmyoji on Weibo clashed with players who were unhappy with the game. The ghostwriters quickly launched an organized verbal attack on players, and this angered some players who were already very disappointed with Onmyoji. Later, the player community found key evidence of NetEase hiring ghostwriters to promote the game through a group chat screenshot, and NetEase was forced to issue an announcement acknowledging their cooperation with third-party marketing agencies hired to promote the game. Still, NetEase stressed that it did not organize ghostwriters to attack players verbally. NetEase has also promised to immediately end cooperation with the marketing agencies that violated the rules.

NetEase admitting they are collaborating with market agenciesNetEase admitting they are collaborating with market agencies

Following up on the ghostwriters' evidence, the player community discovered another Weibo account claiming to be an Onmyoji game developer, which had been posting classified internal information and some insulting messages against Shuten-dōji, a popular character in Onmyoji, since 2020. However, after the Weibo account was discovered, this self-proclaimed employee didn't choose to vanish before the public but instead got more aggressive with players and threatened that she would make the upcoming Shuten-dōji skin ugly to irritate players who like the character.

After confirming that some of the confidential information posted by the Weibo account matched the official release from Onmyoji, a large number of Onmyoji players who like Shuten-dōji began asking NetEase to thoroughly investigate the development team that is in charge of the new skin and to provide a reasonable explanation and compensation. Other players continue to suspect similar behavior in official popularity polls based on the evidence of unequal treatment of characters by the staff. Some players have stated that the results of their character support votes held in the community often have huge discrepancies with the official ones. They believed NetEase was manipulating vote numbers to earn more profit on the new characters and wanted NetEase to address the accusation.

As of now, NetEase has responded to players' questions about the staff and the popularity voting in the early hours this morning. NetEase said that after investigation, they determined the Weibo user is not a staff member of Onmyoji and that they will file legal action against the user for allegedly leaking classified information and abusing players. NetEase also said that they would release all the game designs in the future and let players know as much as possible about the behind-the-scenes production process of Onmyoji. As compensation, Shuten's new skin will be given to all players for free.

The statement NetEase issued to clarify the staff incident with the official stamp.The statement NetEase issued to clarify the staff incident with the official stamp.

According to Superpixel’s inner source, the Weibo user was actually an employee of the outsourcing company that NetEase hired to produce Onmyoji. The employee used the classified information obtained to issue biased comments and insult the game characters she disliked. The source also said that NetEase chose to make the statement at this time in order to divert public attention from the mysteriously delayed Diablo Immortal release in China.