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Staying Compliant: China’s Gaming Regulations Explained

The Chinese gaming market has seen some significant regulatory changes this year. Tightening regulations are having an impact on global developers as uncertainty around new titles is looming. A game license freeze started in July, with no new titles being approved by China’s National Press and Publication Administration. So far in 2021, a total of 76 new games produced by global developers have received a game license according to China’s National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA).

It’s expected that the approval process for new titles will start in December, a month that historically tends to see many titles released in China. With all the regulatory changes happening recently, some of which have an impact on which games are now considered compliant in the world’s largest gaming market, developers and advertisers need clarity more than ever. This is where this article comes in.

We’ve looked at the latest gaming regulations to help you stay up to date with the latest policies. If you’re a developer who is either looking to launch or has already released their game in China, we’ve also provided a checklist that should help you understand what you need in order to be and stay compliant. We’ve put all of this together into a handy PDF guide which you can download and refer back to whenever you need to – download it below:

Free Guide: China’s 2021 Mobile Gaming Regulations and How to Be Compliant [PDF]

Timeline: Key Gaming Regulation Changes in 2021

2021 saw some important new gaming laws, policies, and regulations come into effect in China. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest ones – you can find the full timeline, along with detailed explanations and what they mean for games developers in our free PDF guide.

  • March 2021: the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party releases “The Detailed scoring rules of game censorship” which looks at the pre-approval system and what kind of elements should not be included in games
  • April 2021: China’s Ministry of Education publishes “Notice on further strengthening sleep management of primary and secondary school students” which specifies that game services cannot be available to minors between 10 PM and 8 AM
  • June 2021: “Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors” is officially implemented, pushing for the establishment of a nationwide digital ID system for gamers
  • August 2021: China’s General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), along with the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), release “Notice on Further Strict Management to Prevent Minors from Indulging in Online Games” which limits minors to play games from 8-9 PM on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays
  • September 2021: China’s State Council releases “Outline for Children’s Development in China (2020-2030)” with guidelines for implementing digital identity verification systems for minors, improved game product classifications, and more
  • November 2021: China’s “Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL)” comes into effect, focusing on things like requiring users to agree to data collection, specifying how and what kind of user data can be used, and more (you can read more about it here)

Download our PDF guide to get a good understanding of China’s gaming regulation changes in 2021, and what you need to do to stay compliant.

Checklist: What You Need Before Submitting Your Game for Approval

For developers looking to get a gaming license, also known as an ISBN, there are several steps they need to complete before they can submit their game for approval:

  1. You must partner with a Chinese game publisher who will operate the game there on your behalf
  2. Your game must have a certificate from the National Copyright Administration in China
  3. You must have the correct business license and ICP (Internet Content Provider) certificate
  4. Your game must comply with all regulations around content, monetization, and minor protection

Once all required documentation is ready, developers can then submit their application to the local Provincial Publishing Administrative Department. The application will then be reviewed and if successful, will receive preliminary approval. Then, the game will be submitted to the State Administration of Press and Publication and that’s where games get the final approval.

Checklist: What You Need When You Submit Your Game for Approval

Game developers who want to run their games in China must get the approval we mentioned above. Please note that games must have all features enabled and only the version that is planned to go live in China must be showcased. Let’s now take a look at what’s needed when submitting a game for approval in China:

  1. You must submit a game demo video that is at least 10-minutes long; the video should include elements like title, main interface, characters, gameplay system, as well as systems that prevent gaming addiction or limit game time for minors
  2. The game’s full script must be submitted in Simplified Chinese; this includes elements like system prompts, gameplay tasks, NPC conversations, in-game prompts, and more
  3. The application must also include details including the game’s launch date (outside of China), which countries it is currently available in, how many users it has, and more

The application process can take up to 80 business days. If approved, developers will be informed and they will receive their gaming license which will allow them to run their game in China. We’ve got a fully-detailed checklist for the application process in our free PDF guide.

Recap: What Developers Need to Know to Launch and Grow Their Games in China

This might sound like a lot of information to digest, so let’s break it down a bit – there are essentially 5 main things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Your game must follow Chinese laws
  2. Your game must have a protection system for minors
  3. You must implement a real-name authentication system
  4. You must provide detailed information around data protection regulations
  5. Your game content must be fully localized

Nativex Game Regulations explained XploreCHinaYou can find practical guidance on how best to adapt your app/game within Chinese regulatory framework

Get Your Game Ready for China with Nativex

We know that staying up to date with regulatory changes can be difficult and time-consuming. This is why we launched the XploreChina initiative, a set of solutions designed to help you launch and grow in the world’s largest gaming market.

Nativex XploreChina Game LaunchOverview of our game/app launch solutions, contact us to get more details.

We have a deep understanding of the Chinese regulatory system, local expertise, and strong experience with helping partners launch their titles in China. This means that we are equipped with the tools and knowledge to help you find success in the Chinese market, which has over 660 million gamers.

If you are looking to publish your game in China, or need help staying compliant in 2022 and beyond, contact the Nativex team today.