China hasn't approved a single new video game for sale in 9 months, and that freeze could continue into 2019

  • The Chinese government has not approved any new video games for release in the country since March 2018, and the freeze could continue into early 2019.
  • China recently announced the formation of an Online Games Ethics Committe, but the committee’s first batch of reviews resulted in zero approvals.
  • Video game publishers are working to meet the government’s criteria, even as the halt in approvals has meant they’re losing money in a huge market.

It’s been about 9 months since the Chinese government approved a new video game for release in the country, and the freeze is likely to continue well into next year. Though the country recently established an Online Games Ethics Committee, the organisation has yet to find a game that fits their criteria.

South China Morning Post reported last week that while China recently formed an Online Games Ethics Committee to approve video games for sale in the country, the committee has yet to approve any of the games it has reviewed.

China has strict regulations regarding new media entering the country. Video games and movies alike must be reviewed by officials prior to their mass release, and the government has strict standards prohibiting violence and offensive content. In March, China established the State Administration of Press and Publication to handle the approval of video games and other new media. The reorganising of the approval process led to a complete halt of video game approvals, and China has also restricted the monetisation of certain games that were already approved.


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According to China Central Television, a state-run channel, the committee has reviewed 20 games so far; nine of the games were rejected outright, while the other 11 will need to modify their content to be eligible for release. The committee did not identify any of the games that were reviewed. A government source told the South China Morning Post that the freeze on new approvals is expected to continue into February 2019, while the government establishes a new licensing system.

While it’s unclear what standards new games need to meet for approval, Chinese officials have criticised video games as a whole for their impact on the country’s youth. Those rallying against video games have suggested that they are addictive and make children unproductive.

With about one-fifth of the world’s total population, China is the largest video game market on the planet. Chinese gamers spent an estimated $US34 billion on video games during the 2018 fiscal year, according to New Zoo.

China also happens to be home to the world’s largest video game publisher, Tencent. Tencent has been unable to release or otherwise monetise some of its most popular games this year and its total value has dropped by roughly $US200 billion as a result. In an effort to quell concerns about kids getting addicted to video games, the company has implemented new age restrictions, going so far as to include facial recognition software to limit playtime.

The formation of the Online Games Ethics Committee suggests that China may soon be ready to approve new games, but publishers will still need to work through quite a bit of bureaucratic red tape to bring their game into the country.

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