China issues first approvals for new video games in nearly a year

ONE Reuters (opens in new tab) The report says China has resumed issuing publishing licenses for video games, granting approvals for 45 new games, the first license approvals since July 2021.

The freeze on new game approvals came as part of China’s effort to fight online gaming addiction (opens in new tab) among young people and crack down on games that portray the “wrong set of values”, including same-sex relationships and overly effeminate men (opens in new tab).

Hundreds of Chinese game companies have pledged to “strictly comply (opens in new tab)” by the newly introduced rules, including the implementation of facial recognition technology (opens in new tab) to stop underage players from playing when they shouldn’t, but that hasn’t convinced regulators to relax. Indeed, in March, the Cyberspace Administration of China unveiled plans to expand the country’s online gaming limits to encompass live streaming and social media (opens in new tab) to “create a clean cyberspace for the majority of Internet users, especially young people”.

But the regulations have taken a toll on Chinese gaming and internet companies: Big players like Tencent, Iqiyi, Bilibili and Netease have all seen significant drops in their share prices as a result of the crackdown, and a South China morning mail A December 2021 report said about 14,000 “small game-related studios and companies” in China have gone out of business in recent months.

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Interestingly, Reuters tech correspondent Josh Ye said that neither Tencent nor Netease games were on the list, although industry analyst Daniel Ahmad confirmed that the deletion is not necessarily noteworthy: “Even in earlier batches, before of the freezes, there were times when big companies weren’t on the list,” he tweeted (opens in new tab).

The duration of the approval freeze is also not unprecedented: the Chinese government’s previous halt in licensing new game publications was lifted in December 2018about nine months after its imposition.

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