China ends moratorium on game approvals

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The Chinese government has ended its freeze on game approvals.

The end of the freeze, which lasted nine months and left the games industry in limbo, since the Chinese government requires publishers to submit games for approval before they can be sold in what is potentially the world’s biggest market, was reported by the South China Morning Post.

That newspaper quoted Feng Shixin, deputy head of the State Administration of Press and Publications (SAPP), as saying in a video: “The first batch of games have been reviewed. We will hurry up to issue licenses. 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.”

The South China Morning Post also spoke to Lisa Hanson, managing partner with Asia-focused gaming research firm Nikos Partners, who shed some more light on the end of the moratorium – which has been in place since the SAPP, part of the Chinese government’s Propaganda department, was formed in April 2018. Hanson said: “Chinese gaming demand has not reduced during this licensing hiatus but gamers will be pleased when new titles are launched, particularly if the list includes some of the blockbusters they’ve been waiting for. We heard that the first announcements will be for domestic games, with foreign games to follow. 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.”

Part of the justification behind the approval freeze was an expressed desire by the Chinese government to ensure that gaming is heavily regulated, to which many local publishers responded. Giant Chinese publisher Tencent, for example, announced in October that it would use facial recognition to detect minors playing its games. The South China Morning Post reported Tencent as saying, in response to the end of the approval freeze, “It’s obviously exciting, good news for China’s game industry … We are confident that Tencent will provide more excellent cultural works to society and the public after the games approval [process] is resumed.”

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Steve Boxer
Steve Boxer has been writing about videogames since the early 1990s. His first console was an Atari VCS, and he misspent most of his youth in the 1980s in the arcades. As well as for Green Man Gaming, he can be found writing for The Guardian, Empire, TechRadar and Pocket-Lint. He’s currently having trouble deciding whether his favourite console is his Xbox One X or his Switch, and plays a wide range of games, but especially RPGs (he loves a good JRPG) action-adventure titles, shooters of all descriptions and driving games. Follow him here.