Update (09/01/19): After nine months of stagnation, China opened the flood gates for new video game approvals, passing its first batch of 80 titles on December 19th. It seems as though the country is steadily upping the pace, with another 84 games revealed to have been approved before the end of the year.
Niko Partner’s Daniel Ahmad broke the news on Twitter, revealing that 164 games in total had been approved within the first 10 days of the State Administration of Press and Publications (SAPP) processing applicants. None of the new games were named, however Ahmad calculated that the government was on track to approve 6,000 games per year at its current output, a little short of the 8,000 given the thumbs-up in 2017.
Considering China will have a sizeable backlog of titles to review alongside new submissions, it could be quite some time before things return to normal for the nation.
New batch of games approved in China-
84 new games approved as of Dec 29th 2018 which takes the total number of games approved in December (since Dec 19th) to 164.
Game approvals restarted in December after a temporary game license approval freeze from April.
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) January 9, 2019
Original Story (02/01/19): China finally resumed video game approvals at the end of last month, following the restructuring of government departments. The first wave of licences in nine months have finally been distributed with the noticeable omission of China’s two biggest publishers – Tencent and Netease.
Although smaller publishers definitely felt the stagnation of video game licences more than bigger competitors, China’s largest publisher Tencent was forced to undergo its own restructure to stop its shares from dropping further. Monster Hunter World was one of the most notable victims of the licencing halt, being pulled in the country just days after release.
Fortunately, deputy head of the State Administration of Press and Publications (SAPP) Feng Shixin stated that “the first batch of games have been reviewed” and licences would be hurried out the door early this year. “There is a big stockpile of games for review, so it takes a while. We will continue to work hard,” says Shixin while asking for patience.
We noted last week that China was set to end its temporary game approval freeze which started back in March 2018.
A first batch of 80 new games were approved today. The list includes 67 mobile games, 6 PC games and 1 console game. pic.twitter.com/dyBLKYkbWZ
— Niko Partners (@nikochina) December 29, 2018
Out of the 80 licences reported by Niko Partners, a staggering 67 are headed to mobile, 6 to PC and 1 to console, however none come from Tencent or its sizeable rival, Netease. Despite not being included in the initial roster of titles seeing the light of day in China, share prices for both companies saw a sharp rise since the announcement.
There’s no telling how games are prioritised for review, whether it’s first come, first served or another manner of speaking, but if Tencent and Netease don’t receive some attention soon, Western publishers are sure to suffer. The two goliaths have made it much easier in recent years for international developers to see a release in the heavily regulated country, with other routes proving arduous.
KitGuru Says: A nine-month backlog is sure to cause quite the delay in licences but it’s good to see that things are finally under way. It remains to be seen just how much censorship the new department will enforce in comparison to the old, but we can always unrealistically hope that China has loosened its grip.