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China's game approval rules will soon apply to HTML5 and WeChat mini-games

China's game approval process has undergone a lot of change in the past year or so, including a full-on freeze for most of 2018, but more changes are set to hit the program this month.

China’s game approval process has undergone a lot of change in the past year or so, including a full-on freeze for most of last year, but more changes are set to hit the program this month including some that expand its reach to cover HTML5 and instant games.

Releasing a game in China requires it to be submitted to regulators and deemed to meet certain content and quality standards before being greenlit to go up for sale, meaning that these regulations are important to know for devs interested in launching a game in China’s sizable market. 

Niko Partners has summarized the new and existing regulations China’s State Administration of Press and Publication plans to have fully implemented this month to oversee that process. Each, according to Niko Partners, aims to address issues related to game quality and content, risks of game addiction (especially in minors), and self-regulation for publishers.

Those include some plans that already were put into motion in December 2018 like establishing an ethics committee to evaluate the social values of online games and to restart the previously-frozen approval process that issues licenses for new titles.

Newer policies include an undisclosed limit on the number of games approved per calendar year (less than 5,000 for 2019, by Niko Partners' estimate), increased research and implementation of anti-addiction systems, especially for mobile games, and rules that require HTML5 games and mini-games like WeChat titles to seek approval before releasing.

Other new goals of the approval process seek to introduce and encourage self-regulation within China-based game publishers to check content ahead of approval, something that would come from more transparent information on the approval process itself, and goals that aim to promote games that “promote traditional culture” and feature “correct information regarding history, politics, and law.”

The full Niko Partners writeup offers more context for each of these, as well as a list of more specific content guidelines (“there shall be no images of dead bodies or pools of blood in any games,” clearly note if a game is part of a series or risk it being denied due to title overlap) that developers might want to check out as well.

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