Summary: It is commonly known that China heavily regulates content before it reaches its citizens, but how strict are these rules in the world of game development and publishing? From Publication Numbers to partnering with a local publisher, learn about the current regulatory management in China.
China spends an incredible amount of money each year on games, trumping even the United States in the international rankings for countries with the largest game markets. However, it is also notoriously difficult for developers to get their games approved and published here due to strict policies around game regulatory management in China.
While this is a frustrating situation to say the least, the pain is felt most acutely by foreign developers who find it difficult to navigate this new and complex landscape of regulation and criteria that are essential to master in order to crack the Asian games market.
Fortunately, there is still hope and many Western games find success in China’s mobile gaming market. But before success comes the long struggle to understand the game regulatory management in China.
Local partnership involves finding a reliable entity that will start your application process and assist you in cracking the Asian mobile market, whether through sourcing distribution methods or helping you localise your content.
Game regulation in China has until recently been managed by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television – known as SAPPRFT. Since 1989, games consumed by the Chinese population have been carefully monitored and regulated.
With the recent explosion of China’s mobile games market, a great deal of scrutiny has been carried out on all titles both domestic and foreign before they have been allowed to enter the Chinese gaming market.
From outright bans to censorship of graphic, unsavoury or anti-social content, it has been a struggle for many foreign developers to capitalise on China’s burgeoning marketplace without the help of a Chinese mobile game publisher.
The situation today isn’t much different – the government still needs to approve each and every game before it goes on sale in the country. The slight difference is that the regulatory body in charge now appears to be The State Administration of Press and Publications who, after a recent shift in China’s regulatory structure, is now responsible for overseeing the approval of game licenses.
While these changes might seem overly disruptive with a potential to stunt industry growth, the recent hiatus takes place within China’s broader transition towards giving the central government more authority over national policy.
Ultimately, China has not let the world of mobile games slip through the net and continues to apply a great deal of diligence when regulating the kind of content that reaches its citizens – all the more reason to partner with a local game publisher who knows what they are doing.
All new games require a government-issued Publication Number to allow a title to be released on one of the hundreds of different Android stores in China.
You’ll need this Publication Number to start the process before your title can even be reviewed. However, only a Chinese entity with the appropriate commercial license is allowed to apply for one of these – so partnering with a Chinese mobile games publisher is really the only way to move forward in this area.
The complicated application process can typically last from one to two months for domestically developed games, or three to four months for foreign game applications, putting off many game developers from even trying to launch a mobile game in China.
Games considered to violate certain criteria will simply be rejected. This includes titles deemed threatening to the nation’s social order and unity, or titles that violate basic principles of the constitution.
There are no exceptions… even digital giants are treated like any other entity – subject to heavy regulation, censorship or banning in accordance with game regulatory management in China.
In 2010, Google officially left the Chinese market after refusing to censor search results. Hard to imagine if you’re an Android user in the Western world, but Google Play and other associated applications have been absent from the Chinese market for a number of years now.
Similarly Apple also receives zero leniencies when it comes to their content licenses in China. For foreign developers looking to bring Western games to China’s mobile gaming market, the truth is there are no shortcuts here!
“Games considered to violate certain criteria will simply be rejected. This includes titles deemed threatening to the nation’s social order and unity, or those that violate basic principles of the constitution.”
From localization to IP theft prevention, cracking China’s mobile games market is not for the faint of heart. Regulatory management can be the final straw for some developers who are put off by the sheer number of challenges they will have to overcome before they can launch a mobile game in China.
At Joypac we use our decades’ of experience in the Chinese market to help you navigate regulations and optimize your game for success in China and the wider APAC region. It’s not a walk in the park, but with the right team onboard it’s still perfectly possible to crack China and access a market of over 180 million mobile gamers.
Finding success in the Chinese gaming market can seem like a formidable task. The truth is there are no shortcuts; the fastest option is to tick the required boxes surrounding game regulation in China and work with a publisher who understands the market to avoid reworking and retracing your steps.
Personal relationships play a large role in Chinese society and the world of game publishing.
To access the right relationship-based channels and give your title the best chance of success, you need a publishing partner who knows the market and can help your game navigate the landscape.
China has hundreds of different app-stores that cater to different demographics and user preferences.
Learning how you can promote your game in this complex ecosystem is vital to your success. Extensive research and support from a local partner can help you gain the edge in this pursuit.
Gaining approval from China’s State Administration can be a lengthy process. This can take up to four months depending on the type of game you are hoping to publish.
A publishing partner with local expertise will assist you in understanding the relevant criteria and getting your game ready for the market.