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Is China's gaming output back on track?

With 88 new licences granted, could the country’s regulatory issues be coming to an end?
Is China's gaming output back on track?

China has issued licences to 88 new games in July, with 86% of those games being mobile titles.

Among the studios who have received new licences are the likes of 4399, Glacier Network, and Xishanju. However, there are some notable omissions, such as Tencent and NetEase.

This new batch of approvals is the latest sign that China’s mobile industry is in recovery, following the regulatory changes that have rocked the market in recent years. The country imposed a lengthy hiatus on new game approvals in 2021, which severely impacted its mobile games market. The country also issued strict restrictions on playtime among young gamers in an attempt to curb video gaming addiction, while some of its biggest players in the mobile scene have faced their own struggles, such as Tencent losing its status as China’s biggest company and posting its first ever quarterly loss plus the high-profile breakdown of NetEase’s partnership with Blizzard. This has seen several companies expand internationally in their attempts to remain profitable

Is the trouble over?

Mobile has long dominated China’s gaming scene, and as such it’s a market of great interest. As the home of some of the world’s biggest mobile game makers, in many ways the health of the Chinese market acts as something of a bellwether to the industry worldwide. The reintroduction of approvals, even if some of the industry’s biggest players aren’t included in the list this month, indicates that the turbulence is settling, at least for now.

While October 2022 was a dramatic low with zero licences granted, 2023 began with Chinese authorities granting 88 licences. March saw 86 licences and by April the total of number of licences granted in 2023 outnumbered the entirety of the previous two years combined.

While some of China’s biggest players are increasingly opening new revenue streams with the foundation - or investment in - console and PC developers, mobile remains the biggest player in the country’s gaming scene, and indeed the most profitable gaming platform in the world. With a massive 97.7% of this new wave of approvals being mobile titles, it’s clear that mobile remains the chief focus of China’s industry.

In June, we reported that 80% of revenue from China’s top game makers in Q1 came from Tencent and NetEase.