According to Reuters, China's video games regulator granted publishing licenses to 45 globally popular online games. It's the first time the country has approved international games in over a year.
China is a very profitable market in the game industry, and several western developers such as Blizzard have done anything they could to establish (or firm up) their foothold in that market. With approvals starting up again, it means developers can increase their presence in the country.
In September 2021, China's regulator suspended the online game approvals in an effort to combat what it saw as a rise in video game addiction. This is something China does fairly often; prior to this most recent approval suspension, the regulator halted the process in 2018.
Games on the approved international list include Riot's Valorant, Nintendo's Pokémon Unite, and CD Projekt Red's Gwent: The Witcher Card Game. At the same time it approved international games, China's regulator gave the green light to 84 domestic titles.
Several of the international games will be published by Chinese tech giants Tencent and NetEase. Sources told Reuters that Tencent had secured licenses for six games this month.
Compared to previous years, though, the list of approved non-China games is pretty low. Reuters acknowledged that China approved 76 games in 2021, and 456 games in 2017.
Regardless of the number of approved games, it appears that China's efforts to curb game addiction are working, at least at the moment. The number of young game players (between six and 17 years old) has decreased from 122 million in 2020 to 83 million as of August 2022.
That said, analysts pointed out that the number may swing up to 115 million young players by 2026. Should that prediction turn out true, the regulator may end up halting approvals again, or taking other measures to combat games.