China has released its guidelines for approving new video games, one year after putting a freeze on new releases in the country

‘Monster Hunter: World’/Capcom‘Monster Hunter World’ was one of the best-selling games of 2018, but it was blocked from release in China last year.
  • China has announced new regulations for publishing video games in the country after an eight-month freeze on new releases last year.
  • China is one of the most important markets in the video game industry, generating more than $US30 billion in revenue each year.
  • While video games are popular in China, the Chinese government has strict regulations prohibiting violent or offensive media.
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China has officially introduced new regulations for publishing video games, clarifying how the world’s largest video game market accepts new releases.

China’s State Administration of Press and Publication (SAPP) unveiled its guidelines for releasing new games in China during a press conference on April 10, according to Niko Partners.

The Chinese government established the SAPP in April 2018 to oversee the approval of new media in the country. But as SAPP established its process for approvals, China halted the release of new video games in the country for nearly eight months.

The SAPP eventually established the Online Games Ethics Committee to review new games and make sure they meet the government’s standards. According to Niko Partners, the ethics committee prohibits anything that violates or threatens China’s constitution, national security, or political climate; games that promote racism or religious cults; and obscene content featuring drug use, extreme violence, or gambling. Extreme violence would include images of dead bodies and pools of blood, though the country does accept some games with guns and other weapons.


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With the new oversight committee in place, China has approved about 1,000 new video games for release since December 2018. But those games come from a backlog of titles that were originally submitted for approval between April and July 2018. The committee still has months-worth of old games to review and hundreds of new applicants will likely be submitting games through the updated application process.

Chinese officials have expressed concerns about video games leading to addiction and an overall lack of productivity. Video game versions of poker and mahjong are wildly popular in China and made up about one-third of the country’s new video games in 2017. The country’s regulators are specifically looking to crack down on the number of gambling-related games moving forward.

Chinese regulators have also been working to introduce mandatory time limits for gamers under the age of 18. Tencent, China’s largest video game company and the world biggest publisher, began implementing mandatory age restrictions on its own last year, while the Chinese government was still blocking new releases.

To manage the age restrictions, Tencent introduced a new program called the Real Name Identity System (RNIS). Players under the age of 18 were limited to playing just two hours a day, while those under the age of 12 were limited to one hour a day. Each player’s name and age is checked against the national citizen database maintained by China’s Ministry of Public Security. Tencent also introduced facial recognition software in September 2018, starting with thousands of randomly selected gamers living in Beijing and Shenzhen.

Despite the country’s strict regulations on video games, China’s gamers generated an estimated $US34.4 billion in revenue during 2018, according to NewZoo. With clear regulations in place, publishers will have a better idea of how to get their games into one of the world’s most valuable markets for video games.

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