As anyone in the gaming industry can tell you, China is the largest market for video games in the world. With one of the most massive populations and a tight leash on gaming since the gaming market became a financial powerhouse, it’s no surprise that nearly every game publisher in the world wants to make the first big splash now that the Chinese government is easing up on the regulations a bit.
Of course, ‘easing up’ is an entirely relative term. While Chinese game restrictions aren’t nearly as bad as the nationwide console ban of 2000 to 2013, regulations are going to stop many games from ever seeing the light of day on Chinese soil.
This new birth of regulations comes from the new State Administration of Press and Publication, whose job it was to establish new guidelines for the approval of video games in the Chinese market. Due to the months long process of forming this group, there’s been a massive backlog of video games awaiting approval for sale, and the approval process only resumed on April 22nd. It’s no doubt good news for both Chinese gaming fans and game publishing companies alike, but things aren’t completely on the sunny side.
For one, the number of games they approve annually will be capped. Even if all of the games submitted for approval in a year are allowed by regulations, they still won’t make it through due to this cap. Chinese gamers will still be getting a much smaller influx of games every year than most of the rest of the world.
And of course, several genres of games will be prevented from making a mark in the now more available market. One of the most notable being poker and gambling based games. The Chinese government believes that such games are a bad influence on the youth by condoning and supporting gambling tendencies. While they may not be mistaken about this, this restriction on such genres won’t affect the games that already have a place in the country. The ban only affects new applicants, so any gambling game already in place will be minimally affected.
Another type of game that will be banned is any title that depicts corpses or blood. China’s game regulations have always been pretty tight on violence, but the revised regulations are even stricter than before. Whereas blood could be changed to a different color such as green or blue to avoid being penalized before, but even that loophole won’t be allowed any longer.
Finally, games that depict China’s imperial past in a favorable light are likely to get axed as well. While this is somewhat understandable in a public relations sense, it does mean a great many games drawing inspiration from an earlier period in Chinese culture are likely to have trouble getting through the regulations.
Ultimately, while it is nice to hear that China will finally be getting access to more games, it’s unfortunate that strict regulations will impact the types of games they’ll be gaining access to in the first place.