China puts new game approvals back on hold

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The Chinese government has again halted approval of new games, in order to deal with a mounting backlog.

The temporary moratorium has not been officially announced, but it was reported by the South China Morning Post, which cited inside information: “China’s State Administration of Press and Publications (SAPP) has called a halt on new video game approval submissions to clear a backlog created by an earlier nine-month hiatus, according to a gaming company executive with knowledge of the matter.”

The newspaper added: “There is no confirmed date as to when the top video games regulator will restart accepting submissions from its local bureaus, according to the person, who was informed by the local regulator this week and asked not to be named as the information is not public. Video game companies can still file applications to local regulators, which will no longer pass them on to the SAPP while it works through its backlog, said the executive.”

As we reported, China’s SAPP finally ended a nine-month freeze on game approvals in December 2018. That moratorium caused chaos within the games industry in China, with Chinese publishers like NetEase and Tencent Holdings experiencing their slowest growth in decades as a result – Tencent is still waiting for approval to publish PUBG and Fortnite in China.

The South China Morning Post quoted analyst Lisa Hanson of Niko Partners: “If the licensing process is halted for any reason more than to give the SAPP a chance to clear out the backlog, that will be a disappointment to game developers, publishers and gamers. We are hopeful that this is a procedural halting and will soon be resolved.”

We’ll keep you apprised of any further developments regarding China’s approval of games.

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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.