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June 20, 2019
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China's frozen game approval process continues long thaw

China's frozen game approval process continues long thaw
April 3, 2019 | By Kris Graft

China’s long slog through foreign and domestic game approvals continues, as the number of games approved for release in the country since its content crackdown nears 1,000.

China, a major market for mobile and online games, began tight gatekeeping of video game releases in the country starting last year, as the new State Administration of Press and Publication sought to weed out games that didn’t abide by the government’s values, or games deemed addictive to minors.

The slow process of getting games licensed and released in China is cause for concern for domestic developers, but even more so for foreign game companies that would like to capitalize on the explosive Chinese game market.

Since the freeze on game approvals lifted in December last year, 959 games have been approved for release. A report from Niko Partners states that backlogged domestic games get priority over foreign-made games.

While 30 foreign games were released in the last month, there had been no foreign-produced games released in the prior 12 months due to the freeze. All games require a Chinese publisher.

Niko said Q1 2019 saw 795 titles approved (foreign and domestic) in total versus 1,931 approved a year prior. The large difference is mainly due to China blocking release of poker and mah-jong games, amid the government’s concern over real-world money being used in this genre, Niko said.

The sluggish approval process has caused a slowdown in the Chinese games market, but Niko said it expects growth to pick up as the approval process gains momentum.

Larger Chinese publishers are only recently seeing major game releases, such as Perfect World Entertainment’s Perfect World Mobile, which quickly topped China’s top-grossing charts following its release in March.

Still, foreign games with huge Chinese market potential have yet to see release, including Epic Games’ Fortnite.

However, domestic game company Netease has been able to fill the Fortnite-sized hole in the Chinese market with the new and completely and totally original battle royale game, FortCraft.

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