After almost a year, video games are back in China

According to a report by Reuters news agency, China has resumed issuing publishing licenses for video games and approved 45 new games. This is the first such licensing since July 2021.

The licensing freeze on new games is part of China's efforts to combat online gaming addiction among young people and crack down on games that portray "false values", including same-sex relationships and overly feminine men.

Current situation of video games in China

Hundreds of Chinese gaming companies have pledged to "strictly comply" with the newly introduced rules. This includes the use of facial recognition technology to prevent young players from playing when they are not allowed to. In fact, China's Cyberspace Administration announced plans in March to extend limits on online gaming to livestreaming and social media to "create a clean cyberspace for the majority of netizens, especially young people".

But the regulations have hurt Chinese gaming and internet companies, with big players such as Tencent, Iqiyi, Bilibili and Netease suffering significant share price losses as a result of the crackdown. According to a report in the South China Morning Post in December 2021, around 14,000 "small studios and game-related companies" have gone out of business in China in recent months.

Interestingly, Reuters tech correspondent Josh Ye said that neither Tencent nor Netease games are on the list, although industry analyst Daniel Ahmad acknowledged that the exclusion is not necessarily remarkable: "Even in prior batches, prior to the freezes, there have been times where major companies weren't on the list”, he tweeted.

Previous similar problems

The length of the licensing freeze is also not unprecedented: the Chinese government's previous licensing freeze on new game releases was lifted in December 2018, nine months after it was initially imposed.

China also issued an age limit for playing video games last year. Young gamers can play video games on public holidays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 20:00 to 21:00. Meaning that on a regular week, most Chinese gamers are allowed to play three hours at maximum.

This limit also affected esports leagues such as League of Legends’ LDL. Players that are under the defined age limit had to leave the professional arena, and teams had to find new players for their teams.

A similar limit dictated to game for 1,5 hours on weekdays and three hours on weekends and holidays before, since 2019. All the gaming companies must comply with these rules and stop their online gaming services to these players outside these periods.

China claims that gaming affects mental and physical health, thus they impose such laws. Approving games carefully and limiting gaming hours are part of their plans to diminish the gaming addiction in the country. More than 30% of young gamers in China suffer from gaming addiction, according to studies.

Still, gaming companies manage to get their games approved in China, and they still have one of the biggest professional esports ecosystems in the world.

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