December 3, 2023

China’s video game regulator has approved 31 foreign-developed titles for the local market, including adaptations of blockbuster film franchises Avatar and The Lord of the Rings, in the second batch of such approvals this year.

The National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), the agency in charge of licensing video games in China, published a list of newly approved imported titles on Tuesday, which includes 21 mobile titles, seven personal computer games, two games for the Nintendo Switch, and one title available on both PC and mobile platforms.
Tencent Holdings and NetEase, the two largest video game publishers in China, each had at least one title on the list. Tencent, which operates the world’s largest video game business by revenue, gained approval for a mobile title adapted from One Piece, the hit Japanese manga series.

China approves 89 new video games in June, keeping a steady pace for the year

Hangzhou-based NetEase received the green light to publish The Lord of the Rings: Rise to War, a mobile strategy game based on the fictional world of Middle-earth. The title was launched in overseas markets by NetEase and Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment in 2021. Current figures are not available, but the game made US$6 million in monthly revenue in January 2022, five months after release, according to Sensor Tower.

Other notable titles include Avatar: Reckoning, a mobile shooting game based on the blockbuster Hollywood science fiction franchise from director James Cameron, which is developed by Beijing-based Archosaur Games. The game is set to be made available outside China later this year by Level Infinite, Tencent’s overseas game publishing division.

China implements a strict licensing and censorship system for the world’s largest gaming market. Foreign titles must be localised and apply for a licence through a Chinese partner before they can legally generate revenue in the country.

The latest batch of approvals – which follows 27 licences given to foreign titles in March – brings the number of imported games approved this year to 58, surpassing the total number approved for all of 2022.

Last December, the NPPA approved 44 imported games in the first licences for foreign titles since the end of an 18-month licensing freeze in the country, marking the easing of the latest regulatory crackdown on video games that started in mid-2021. In 2020 and 2021, the agency approved 96 and 76 imported games, respectively.
Meanwhile, major Chinese video game firms, which also publish foreign titles for the local market, are betting big on global hits to help grow user numbers and generate greater revenue at home after China curtailed the amount of time that minors can spend gaming.

Several titles approved for monetisation in China in recent months have launched this summer. Valorant, a shooting game developed by Tencent subsidiary Riot Games, hit the market in July. Tencent has promised to invest more than 1 billion yuan in the game over the next three years.

On Wednesday, Shanghai-based Bilibili launched Shanyao! Youjunshaonu, the Chinese version of the popular Japanese game Uma Musume Pretty Derby, which secured a licence in March. It was one of the most highly anticipated anime-style titles this year.

In the first half of 2023, total sales in China’s video gaming market fell 2.4 per cent from a year earlier to 144.3 billion yuan (US$19.8 billion), while a “strong bottoming-out” is expected in the second half, according to report from the Game Publishing Committee of the China Audio-video and Digital Publishing Association.


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