Heading into 2020, let’s refresh our understanding of the latest regulations that China imposes on games.
Prior to March 21, 2018, the primary regulators for China’s online game industry were the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (“SAPPRFT”) and the Ministry of Culture (“MOC”).
On March 21, 2018 under the Chinese Communist Party’s Plan to Deepen Reform of Party and State Institutions:
On March 29, 2018, under the SAPPRFT’s unofficial notice to game approval applicants, game approval procedures were suspended. The MOC suspended the domestic game online registration channel on July 25, 2018 and suspended foreign game approvals on August 6, 2018.
On August 28, 2018, President Xi Jinping called for a solution to prevalent shortsightedness among China’s youth. Two days later, eight government departments, including the NAPP, jointly issued the Implementation Plan for Comprehensively Preventing and Controlling Myopia Progression in Children and Adolescents (“Shortsightedness Prevention Plan”) which saw the NAPP limit the number of new video game approvals and set new restrictions on video game playtime for children and adolescents.
On December 29, 2018, the NAPP approved 80 domestic games after an approximately nine month suspension. However, on February 20, 2019, the NAPP announced that it would no longer accept new game approval applications and cleared its backlog of previously accepted applications.
On April 2, 2019, the NAPP approved 30 foreign games. In total, between December 29, 2018 and May 14, 2019, 999 domestic games and 52 foreign games were approved by the NAPP.
The relevant authority now is the National Administration of Press and Publication (国家新闻出版署) (“NAPP”), also known as the National Copyright Administration (国家版权局) (“NCA”). The NAPP is expected to become the sole regulator for the game industry, or at least with respect to the approval and content review process.
Following a period of regulatory uncertainty, including a 9 month suspension of game approvals, the NAPP released new game approval application documents on April 19, 2019. Unofficial reports and industry sources also indicate that meetings were held between several local provincial level offices of the NAPP and various game companies to provide additional information about this new game approval procedure.
Set forth are the relevant rules that game developers should be aware of.
Written rules published by the NAPP:
Unwritten rules based on NAPP conferences, media and industry sources:
As we enter a new decade, there are plenty of exciting and new opportunities for you to open up in China. With an ISBN (Publishing License), you will be able to publish in more stores, reach a wider audience and build your brand in China. Start your applications now and check it off your New Year’s resolutions!