On April 11th 2022, China’s game industry regulator NPPA published a long-awaited list of new game approvals after a crushing eight moths approval freeze. The new batch includes ISBN approvals for 45 domestic games, with no foreign games included. The Chinese game publication number system categorises games per platform (mobile, PC and console) as well as origin (domestic and foreign), with the overwhelming majority of approvals going for domestic mobile game titles. Foreign game titles missing from this first batch are therefore no surprise.
Last year was quite a ride for gaming and internet businesses in China, with the government introducing new Personal Information Protection Law and Data Security Law as well as new anti-addiction guidelines and enforcement system, some new content guidelines and, on top of all that, started the ISBN freeze in August. Reportedly rows of Chinese game studios went bankrupt, Chinese publishers were forced to seek growth from global markets and many publicly listed Chinese companies’ share prices fell.
The year of Tiger seems to be off with a promising start: After the early March communist party People’s Congress Two Sessions meeting, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He urged the roll-out of market-friendly policies to support the economy and caution in introducing measures that risked hurting markets. The new ISBN batch now marks a clear end to the approval freeze, giving the industry some room for growth. Whether this is a shift back to “normal” is still unclear. Before the freeze, the regulator was approving approximately 80-100 domestic games per month and foreign game approvals came in quarterly batches and fewer numbers.
In any case, the end of the freeze is a positive signal to the whole industry in China, with a clear message: the government is trying to reign the game industry, not kill it. A recent regulatory draft also indicates that the regulatory watchdog’s spotlight is turning towards social media and video streaming platforms that haven’t yet implemented the minor protection measures that games now have.
China’s gaming market revenues account for over 30% of the global total and the market is expected to further grow its importance as the spending power of its 680 million mobile gamers keeps growing, with Niko Partners projecting the China mobile gaming market to reach USD 36 billion by 2025. At the same time, due to the limited number of game approvals, the market is seriously under-served and possesses a massive growth opportunity for publishers who manage to get their games approved.
Grabbing your share of this massive pie isn’t easy though, and in addition to evergreen top-grossing titles and proper resources, contestants need to have patience for building long term strategy and stomach for hiccups like 8 months approval freeze. Those requirements pretty well summarise the type of publishers MyGamez is focused on working with, and if you can recognise yourself from that description, we’d be happy to talk with you about your China market approach. With a long time to market, it’s better to start early!