The online video games market is an important part of China’s technology industry, according to Feng Shixin, the deputy director of the Publishing Bureau of the Central Propaganda Department. It brings in an estimated $30 billion in annual revenue. Publishers who want to release games in China must submit them for approval first, but the country’s government took an eight-month break from approvals in 2018 amid concerns over violent content, gaming addiction, and myopia in children. The games industry developed too fast, Feng said, and regulations needed to be updated.
With that in mind, SAPP is introducing a number of changes at the end of the month. It’s establishing an online game ethics committee to review content. The committee is comprised of game experts and scholars who “will evaluate whether certain games abide by the social values that China holds dear.” It’s also imposing a limit on the number of games approved annually, while refusing to license certain titles at all. This primarily impacts “copycat games,” along with poker and mahjong titles. Niko Partners believes less than 5,000 new games will get approval in 2019.
In addition, mini-games and HTML 5 games now have to go through the approval process, the SAPP is expanding China’s anti-addiction policies to include mobile games, and publishers are now being encouraged to self-regulate.
Niko Partners said China’s SAPP will release a new application format to publishers shortly, and it sees a more positive outlook for the country’s digital games market this year.