After a 10-month freeze, China will finally allow new video games from the world's largest video game publisher

Chinese messaging apps are completely different to ones popular in the west. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
  • The world’s largest video game publisher, Tencent, is finally allowed to release new games in its home country after a 10-month government freeze on approvals.
  • China formed a new regulatory body, the Online Games Ethics Committee, to oversee the approval of new games, and just 352 new games have been approved since the committee started their review process.
  • The South China Morning Post reports that Chinese regulators hope to return to approving between 2,000 and 3,000 new games annually.

China’s Online Games Ethics Committee has approved a pair of mobile games published by Tencent, meaning the the world’s largest video game publisher will finally be able to release new games in its home country for the first time since March of last year.

China spent much of 2018 reorganising its approval process for new media coming into the country, leading to an extended freeze on new releases. China established a new regulatory body, the Online Games Ethics Committee, in response to concerns from Chinese officials who feared that video games were sparking addiction and impacting the productivity of the country’s youth.

Chinese regulators maintain strict standards when judging whether games, films, and other media are too violent or offensive for release within the country. The Online Games Ethics Committe approved 80 games in its first round of reviews in late December 2018, and after four rounds of approvals, a total of 352 games have been cleared for release. The South China Morning Post reports that Chinese regulators hope to get back to their standard rate of between 2,000 and 3,000 annual approvals.

Some of Tencent’s most successful games released worldwide during 2018 still remain barred from release in China. Regulators have also prevented Tencent from monetizing popular games that were already tested in the Chinese market, including “Fortnite: Battle Royale” and “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” both of which have millions of players on a monthly basis. The freeze on popular new releases has hit Tencent’s bottom line hard too; the company’s share price dropped nearly 30% during the freeze.

Read more: Video game addiction has sparked a culture war in China – and it’s having huge repercussions for the world’s biggest video game maker

In a proactive response to criticism in China, Tencent began using facial recognition software to verify player identities in September 2018. Tencent’s age-verification process uses an official government database to confirm player identities with their photo and personal information. Players under the age of 18 are limited to playing just two hours a day, while those under the age of 12 are limited to one hour a day.

Despite restrictions from the government, China remains the largest video game market on the planet. Chinese gamers spent more than $US34 billion on video games in the past year, according to New Zoo.

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