Getting a game released in China was already fraught with difficulties, with censors often demanding changes to models, blood, and other textures to meet morality standards. Now, some of those things are being banned outright.
The South China Morning Post has outlined the new regulations from the State Administration of Press and Publications, the government body responsible for the licensing and censorship process of all video games in China.
A conference was held earlier this month to outline the gaming regulator's new requirements, according to SCMP and research group Niko Partners. It follows the authority's suspension of game approvals in February, which has frustrated publishers big and small as they attempt to get their titles into the largest gaming market on the planet.
The country's gaming sector is worth more than $US30 billion annually, with more than 600 million gamers, so anything China does can have a huge influence on developers around the world. The resumption of licenses will undoubtedly be welcome, but as Niko Partners noted, it comes at a catch - the censors only expect less than 5,000 games to be approved next year.
"The SAPP will control the number of video games that receive a license each year. Certain types of games will no longer be approved by the regulator. This will primarily impact low quality copycat games, which currently flood the market, as well as poker and mah-jong games that have been targeted in governmental enforcement over the past year," the analysts wrote.
For one, games can no longer feature "pools of blood" or dead bodies, and they can't change the colour of blood as developers have done in the past. The genre of imperial harem games, which SCMP notes is inspired by interest in imperial period dramas broadcast throughout Asia, have also been banned entirely.
Niko Partners reported that the following guidance has been given to publishers on how to comply with the updated application process:
- If a game is part of a series, this must be noted in the application. If not noted, the game will be assumed to have the same title as an existing game, and is unlikely to get a license.
- If an online game has offline content, the application must indicate that and explain the offline content.
- When submitting a game for approval, do not include the version number in the title.
- There shall be no images of dead bodies or pools of blood in any games.
- Developers may not change the colour of pools of blood to accommodate.
- Mobile game applications do not require publishers to send a smartphone with the game pre-installed for approval.
- Publishers no longer need to submit a paper copy of the “banned words list” for each game, a digital version of the list is sufficient.
The new process will also force games within platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and WeChat to go through the approvals process, just like any other game. "Mini games that have already launched are required to apply for a license from the SAPP at the provincial level within 10 days to continue operation," Niko Partners wrote.
Chinese authorities will also be researching and updating systems for tackling gaming addiction, with a particular focus on limiting the amount of time and money minors can spend while playing video games.