China’s games regulator resumes new submission approvals as it continues through backlog

The State Administration of Press and Publication details the new regulatory landscape for games developers and publishers

China’s games regulator resumes new submission approvals as it continues through backlog

China’s new games regulator State Administration of Press and Publication (SAPP) has ended its freeze on new license approvals.

The body hosted a conference on April 10th, as reported by Niko Partners. As of April 22nd the organisation will approve both newly submitted games at the same time as clearing its backlog.

Previously it had put a freeze on giving the greenlight for new submissions as it waded through a backlog of thousands of titles.

1,029 games have been approved by the regulator since the nine-month block on all licences ended in December 2018, but so far it has only been able to approve titles submitted between April and July 2018.

The new regulatory landscape

SAPP’s conference also outlined a number of new rules and regulations.

It has established a new Online Game Ethics Committee that will work under the guidance of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCPD). This will include game experts and scholars who will “evaluate whether certain games abide by the social values that China holds dear”.

There will also be a limit on the number of games approved each year, likely less than 5,000, while certain types of titles will not even be considered. This is said to affect “low-quality copycat games”, poker and mah-jong titles, and apps that “include overly obscene or immoral content”.

Meanwhile anti-addiction policies, which have been in effect for PC games since 2007, are now being expanded to mobile. This means publishers will have to introduce anti-addiction systems in their titles.

HTML5 games are now required to go through an approval process, which will affect how games are released on platforms such as WeChat Mini Games. Existing titles already released will still need to obtain a licence.

Publishers are also being encouraged to self-regulate under the watchful eye of an independent editor team, as well as promote traditional Chinese culture in their games.

In addition to this, Niko Partners notes further guidance for publishers on the new submission and review processes:

  • 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.

You can gain more insights into the Asia markets on the East Meets West track at Pocket Gamer Connects Seattle, which takes place on May 13th to 14th. PGC will be heading to Hong Kong on July 17th to 18th.

We're also hosting a free London-based 'East Meets West' mini-summit for the games industry on Tuesday, May 29th in association with Mintegral.

Head of Content

Craig Chapple is a freelance analyst, consultant and writer with specialist knowledge of the games industry. He has previously served as Senior Editor at, as well as holding roles at Sensor Tower, Nintendo and Develop.