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This Week in China: ISBN regulations tighten, ChinaJoy 2020 going ahead, and an anti-Plague, Inc. appears

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This Week in China: ISBN regulations tighten, ChinaJoy 2020 going ahead, and an anti-Plague, Inc. appears
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It can be difficult to get the latest news from China, given how locked off it can be for the rest of the world, but we're making it a little bit easier with our new, weekly round-up of the biggest stories from the region.

We're working with Junxue Li, CEO of Beijing-based 2D art firm Sunny Painter, to bring the most interesting news from China to you, so you can stay informed of what's happening in one of the biggest markets in the world.

This week, we're looking at the tightening of China's ISBN regulations for mobile games, Tencent's first step into the otome genre, and the appearance of an anti-Plague, Inc...

China tighten its ISBN policy for online/mobile games

Late this February, the Propaganda Dept of Beijing City summoned game developers/publishers and related platform operators to a meeting, and informed the attendees that the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) policy for online/mobile games will be tightened.

Before going live or being promoted by various ads agencies, games must first apply for, and obtain, an ISBN. And games without one will be removed from the app stores. They were also informed that relevant departments will strengthen the regulation enforcement, and this type of meeting will spread throughout China.

Apple has already started to ask game developers/publishers within China to submit ISBNs. And others are following suit, for example leading ads service Pangle and news media Headline Today.

In China, it's notoriously difficult for games to go through the rigid censoring and eventually get ISBNs, and a large number of games survive in the grey zone by gaming the system.

By the end of 2019, there were 909,000 Chinese mobile games in total, and only 20,000 of them have ISBNs. To many, this new move will be devastating.

The schedule of ChinaJoy 2020 will not be affected by COVID-19

In a Shanghai press conference on Feb 26th, the leaders of the Shanghai municipal government told the press that "our determination for building Shanghai as the capital of esports is unshaken, currently each job for important projects is on the way, once the pandemic is over, and each event will take place on schedule."

Due to the spread of COVID-19, many local and international events have been canceled or rescheduled, including GDC and E3. But as the COVID-19 situation in China gradually improves, confidence is being restored in the people.

As such the 18th ChinaJoy will be held from July 31 to August 3rd 2020, the same date as in previous years.

Tencent unveils its first female orientated interactive story game

"Light and Night" is Tencent's first female-orientated interactive story game, and was unveiled on March 3rd, 2020.

The game adopts anime-style graphics, and features an interactive story and role-playing elements. It’s only available in Chinese language.

It's about love stories among young people. Similar games in the west include Choices: Stories You Play and Episode. It's a free-to-play game, and the developers are recruiting players for internal testing, with an expectation to launch early next year.


The price of Ring Fit Adventure triples in China

Switch game Ring Fit Adventure is out of stock in China, and has surged in price to over ¥1800 ($257), triple its original retail price.

It's not just a story of increased demand - though COVID-19 has made indoor workouts even more fashionable in China.

Instead, it's because Nintendo outsources a lot of its manufacturing to Chinese businesses, and in early February Nintendo told fans that the coronavirus would impact production and shipping for the Nintendo Switch.


An inverse copycat of Plague, Inc. has arrived

While Plague, Inc. had been removed from the app store in China, people joked that to return to the App Store, it should be changed from spreading a virus to treating a virus.

And now there is actually such a game in China. Yiqing Jieyao (Plague Remedy) was launched in China early this February, and from its artwork and gameplay, we can tell it's a copycat of Plague, Inc. with an inverse goal - killing a virus. It's easy to see that it's one of the games "riding the tide".

Its developer Action Portal had launched three Chinese language games with little success, and is a company that claims to be registered in Russia.