China to import 45 foreign video games, grants multiple licences

Moves mark the latest easing of rigid curbs that have hammered China’s gaming industry since August last year.

China’s video games regulator has granted publishing licences to 45 foreign games for release in the country, including seven South Korean games, easing rigid curbs that have hammered the industry for nearly 18 months.

South Korean gaming stocks, including Netmarble Corp, NCSOFT, Krafton, Kakao Games and Devsisters, jumped 2-17 percent in morning trade on Thursday, a day after Chinese authorities granted publishing licences.

Among the imported online games approved by the National Press and Publication Administration are five to be published by Tencent Holdings, such as “Pokémon Unite” by Nintendo and “Valorant” by Riot Games, according to a list the regulator released.

The regulator also approved 84 domestic games for the month of December, according to a separate list released on Wednesday. The approval of imported games effectively marks the end of Beijing’s crackdown on the video games industry which began last August when regulators suspended the game approval process.

Regulators resumed issuing game licenses to homegrown games in April, and the approval of foreign games was seen as the last regulatory curb to be removed.

Unlike in most other countries, video games need approval from regulators before their release in China, the world’s largest gaming market.

Beijing’s crackdown on the industry has dealt a significant blow to Chinese tech companies, including Tencent and NetEase Inc, which derive substantial revenue from publishing both self-developed and imported games.

Through various affiliated companies, Tencent, the world’s largest gaming company, has effectively received a total of six licences in December, a source with knowledge of the matter told the Reuters news agency.

Tencent received its first commercial game licence in more than a year-and-a-half only last month, which was seen then as an important signal towards policy normalisation for the industry. Other imported games approved include CD Projekt’s CDR.WA “Gwent: The Witcher Card Game” and Klei Entertainment’s “Don’t Starve”.

Besides Tencent, NetEase, ByteDance, XD Inc and iDreamSky have also received game approvals in December.

Shares of Tencent, XD Inc, iDreamSky rose between 0.8 percent and 5.2 percent in Hong Kong, while Japan’s Nintendo gained 0.2 percent.

The number of licences granted is fewer than in previous years. China approved 76 imported games in 2021 and 456 in 2017.

In a yearend meeting this month, Pony Ma, founder of Tencent, said the company has to get used to Beijing’s strict licensing regime, and the number of new games that China approves would remain limited in the long run.

Source: Reuters