When the game was first unveiled at the ChinaJoy convention in 2019, it was initially met with criticisms claiming that the game had similarities to Breath of the Wild. Zelda fans at the convention showed explicit gestures towards the Sony booth, with one individual destroying their PlayStation 4 console in protest.
Shortly after release, players discovered that the game’s kernel-based anti-cheat system would remain active after the game was closed or uninstalled, which raised concerns that the game had installed spyware. Some Japanese players using iOS devices also observed that the game read the contents of players’ clipboards while starting up. miHoYo announced that both issues were the result of coding errors and have been addressed and fixed.
On October 6, 2020, journalist and Twitch streamer Kazuma Hashimoto published a video on social media site Twitter demonstrating how political terms controversial in China such as “Hong Kong” and “Taiwan” are censored within the in-game chat. As the developer of the game, miHoYo, is based in China, they are subject to China’s censorship policy, which includes complying with a relatively large list of banned words that cannot be used in game or via chat. Other terms not related to Chinese politics are banned as well, such as “Putin”, “Hitler”, and “Stalin”. Extending outside of purely political wordage, innocuous terms such as “enemies” and “words” were also being censored.
In November 2020, the game was met with controversy during a character’s release, Zhongli, due to his gameplay and kit being viewed as poor to the point where it was taken as an insult toward Chinese players. miHoYo initially replied to the controversy regarding the character, saying that it was working as intended and there should not be any worry over that. Later, miHoYo issued an apology, and promised to improve the character’s kit, through beta testing for version 1.3.
In March 2021, fast food company KFC announced a collaboration event in China that offered exclusive pins and in-game items to customers who turned up and shouted the phrase “Meet in another world, enjoy delicious food!” at the restaurant’s employees. As a result, KFC outlets in Shanghai, Nanjing, and Hangzhou were overrun with fans.
In April 2021, some called for a boycott of the game over claims of bigotry in the game’s content. Some other users pointed out how the only playable characters with dark skin were described as “exotic” or “scary” in the game. Criticism was also aimed at one of the game’s adult characters expressing love towards another character that appears to be a child, though this may have been an oversight as the character in question was noted to have used an adult model during earlier stages of development.
The game’s first anniversary celebrations in September 2021 received criticism due to the company’s handling on the event. Fans of the game criticized the anniversary rewards in comparison to rewards for community events that favored content creators. miHoYo did not release any comment about the rewards, and the game was review-bombed by fans, driving its overall score in the Google Play Store down from 4.5 initially, to 1.9. miHoYo’s other games, Honkai Impact 3rd and Tears of Themis received the same review-bombing by fans amidst the controversy. The company made a formal apology to the players in response to the review bombing, responding with making the paid bundle pack planned to be sold in the upcoming live concert as a free 4-day login gift.