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China’s game licence approvals are falling again, but don’t panic…

While month on month numbers are down, April 2024 saw 95 new domestic game licence approvals, more than the 86 granted in April 2023
China’s game licence approvals are falling again, but don’t panic…
  • China approved 95 new domestic licences in April, further evidencing a monthly decline through 2024
  • The total number of approvals is still above 2023's numbers across the same period

Video game licence approvals have been declining in China month-on-month throughout the start of 2024, and now that April’s results are in, that rate of decline is only getting steeper.

Considering China’s love-hate relationship with video games, a decline in approvals every month may ring alarm bells for many developers and the threat of hard work not seeing the light of day will have them shuddering at the prospecct of another complete freeze on new licences as seen in 2021 into 2022.

In the current market, though, that doesn’t seem likely. Because while approvals are indeed falling month-on-month, down to 95 in April, they’re still the highest they’ve been in years...

Room to approve

2023 was the best full year in recent memory for new licences in China with 1,076 new approvals granted, and the year ended on a high note with 105 in the single month of December - the only month to achieve triple digits.

Enter January, and 2024 kickstarted with the highest monthly approvals seen in years. 115 licences were granted in the first month and immediately the year began ahead of 2023. Then, in February 2024, another 111 licences were distributed, and 107 more followed in March.

Now April's 95 figure confirms the downward trend.

However, despite the clear monthly falls, this still brings the Q1 total to 333 games, versus only 261 in the same period last year - which was itself an exciting increase on the years prior.

Now that the South China Morning Post has revealed 95 more approvals for April, 2024’s triple-digit run is over. However, April's 95 boosts 2024’s total to 428 thus far - coming close to 2022’s full-year total of 512.

It’s safe to say, then, that 2024 will outperform 2022. And provided the decline in approvals stabilises, it could even outperform the strong showing of 2023. But when China can consider banning login bonuses and gacha mechanics at the drop of a hat, only time will really tell.

Among April’s approvals, Tencent’s Tan Tan Dao received a licence, as did NetEase’s Broken Land and Sony’s Lost Soul Aside. In February, Tencent’s Mobile DNF finally received approval after a four year wait.