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Foreign Video Game Approvals In China Surpass Last Year’s Record With 31 New Endorsements

Foreign Video Game Approvals In China Surpass Last Year’s Record With 31 New Endorsements

In late August, Chinese regulators approved 31 foreign video game titles for the local market. This is pleasant news for gamers in the Asian country that had to deal with a brutal crackdown by the government on the industry. Among the foreign-developed video games approved include The Lord of the Rings, and Avatar.

Foreign Video Game Approvals In China Surpass Last Year’s Record With 31 New Endorsements

The 31 foreign video games approved were the second batch of approvals this year. The list was published by the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), the agency that oversees video game licensing in China, on Tuesday 29 August 2023.

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Twenty-one of the 31 newly approved foreign video games were mobile titles, 2 were games for Nintendo Switch, 7 were PC games, and one of the games was available for both mobile and PC platforms. NetEase and Tencent Holdings, the two largest video game publishers in China both had games on the list.

NetEase received the nod to publish the mobile game The Lords of the Rings: Rise of War—a strategy game set in the fictional Middle-earth. The game was initially launched globally in 2021 by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment and NetEase. It was reported by Sensor Tower that the game earned $6 million in January 2022.

Avatar: Reckoning is another familiar title on the list of foreign video games recently approved in China. The game is an adaptation of the science fiction franchise directed by James Cameron. It was developed by Archosaur Games based in Beijing. Later this year, the game will be made available to a global audience by Level Infinite, the overseas publishing division of Tencent.

China has one of the strictest gaming licensing and censorship systems in the world. Foreign video game titles can only apply for license through a Chinese partner, or they will not be allowed to legally generate revenue in the country. This often leads to the abrupt shutdown of games when foreign publishers fall out of agreement with their Chinese partner.

The first batch of foreign video game approvals came in March

Chinese regulators placed a cap on playing time for teenagers (Photo credit: Pexels/Zhang Kaiyv)
Chinese regulators placed a cap on playing time for teenagers (Photo credit: Pexels/Zhang Kaiyv)

Earlier in March, Chinese regulators approved 27 foreign video games for the local market. The two batches of approvals now put the total number of foreign video games approved this year at 58. That figure has already surpassed the total approvals in 2022—but still below 2020 and 2021 numbers. A third batch will likely be approved before the end of the year.

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The NPPA approved 44 foreign video games in December last year, the first after an 18-month-long licensing freeze. That approval also marked the official end to a regulatory crackdown on video games that started in mid-2021. Before that crackdown, 76 foreign video games were approved. A year before that 96 imported video games were approved.

Chinese video game giants that publish foreign titles for the local market are banking on global hits to help grow the number of gamers and generate more revenue in China. A good number of titles approved for monetization in China in March launched this summer.

Valorant (Photo credit: Riot Games)

Valorant by Riot Games, a subsidiary of Tencent hit the Chinese market in July. Tencent plans to invest over 1 billion yuan ($137.7 million) in the game over the next 3 years.

On Wednesday 30 August 2023, Bilibili, a leading anime, comics, and games video-sharing site based in Shanghai, launched Shanyao! Youjunshaonu, a Chinese adaptation of the popular Japanese game Uma Musume Pretty Derby. It was one of the games that was licensed in March and one of the highly anticipated anime-style titles.

Video game sales fell by 2.4% (compared to last year) in the first half of this year to 144.3 billion yuan ($19.8 billion). Nevertheless, the industry anticipates a “strong bottoming-out” in the second half of the year.

Do you think the crackdown on the Chinese gaming market is necessary? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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