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China's Nine-month Free Video Game Approvals Will Soon Be Over



A sales person assisting a young customer at a game store in Beijing.
Photo: Ng Han Guan (AP)

The Chinese government has released a nine-month freeze on new approvals of video game licenses, the South China Morning Posting on Friday, after the establishment of a "new body to review ethical issues in gaming" and the completion of a re-organization among government media agencies.

All video games released in China must be approved by censors as well as a separate agency that trades commercialization. The end of the free relieves and massive headache for Chinese multimedia giant Tencent, the world's largest gaming company, whose stocks plummeted as the situation dragged on without resolution — as well as many of its competitors. But the freeze was the result of a shuffle in the Chinese government that posted media directly under the thumb of the propaganda ministry.

The Post wrote:

"The first batch of games have been reviewed. We will hurry up to issue licenses, ”said Feng, deputy head of the State Administration of Press and Publications (SAPP), according to multiple Chinese media reports on Friday. “There is a big stockpile of games for review, so it takes a while. We will continue to work hard. [We] hope everyone can be patient, "said in remarks seen on video, without providing any further details.

Feng's remarks, delivered at the country's annual gaming forum in the southern province of Hainan, remove a huge regulatory overhang that has put China's major video games on edge and knocked billions off market valuations. China's authoritarian government is notoriously concerned with its definition of social stability, and gaming is one part of the economy that has faced crackdowns as officials raised about the amount of time some citizens spend playing them (1

9659008) particularly youth). At least part of the freeze, however, authorities left open and back channel for game approvals that reportedly entered into a de facto licensing black market.

Lisa Hanson, a managing partner with analytics firm Nikos Partners, told the Post that Demand has not fallen in the meantime.

"We heard that the first announcements will be for domestic games, with foreign games to follow," Hanson told the paper. “A few days or weeks will not make a difference to the gamers, but the game publishers will have a lot of work to do.”

Per TechCrunch, regulators plan to crack down on games that feature pornography, gambling, violence, or that "rewrite the history" of China, as was the case in Tencent's Honor of Kings, which state media accused of muddying the historical record of several famous historical Chinese. They also will ask developers maintain “wrote stronger sense of social responsibility,” TechCrunch, though Feng also said that they plan to encourage game companies to increase the quality of their products and expand overseas to help “promote Chinese culture, propagate Chinese values ​​and showcase Chinese tastes. ”

China is the world's largest video game market at over $ 30 billion annually in revenue, according to the Post, and suffered its slowest growth in 2018 at five percent due to the freeze. However, many gamers may have just turned to Steam, the US-based digital distribution platform, which has somehow been blocked by state firewalls. It is so popular in China (with an estimated 30 million users) that recently announced efforts to launch and officially-approved, censor-compliant version that is widely expected to have a smarter selection of games resulted in an online outrage.

In a separate report, the Post wrote that the nine-month hiatus may have been less than attempt to curb the gaming industry than the result of a vacancy created when the State Administration of Press and Publication head Zhuang Rongwen was promoted to the Cyberspace Administration of China , the country's internet censorship agency.

[South China Morning Post]


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