In another strong sign of recovery for China’s gaming industry, 88 new domestic games were approved by regulators this month.
Notably, none of the games approved this month were from China’s top three gaming companies – NetEase, Tencent, and miHoYo. Instead, regulators moved to support smaller second-tier developers, including XD, Seasun, and iDreamSky, who have taken the biggest hit from the intense scrutiny of the industry over the last few years and the country’s uneven economic recovery this year.
The license approvals arrive alongside China’s biggest gaming expo ChinaJoy, also known as the China Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference, which is set to take place from July 28-31. This year’s event marks the 20th anniversary of the expo and will see giants like Sony, PlayStation, and Electronic Arts showcase their latest offerings.
The four-day expo is run by the Audio-video and Digital Publishing Association under the supervision of the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), which is also responsible for issuing game licenses. The NPPA has approved over 600 domestic games so far this year, compared to 468 domestic games for the whole of last year.
The gaming industry has come under tighter control in the last few years due to concern among political elites over widespread “youth gaming addiction”. Regulations on who can play games and how often, as well as stricter criteria for deciding which games receive publishing licenses all form part of the government’s mission to curb this phenomenon.
These changes mean the number of game licenses issued annually has declined drastically in the last five years, with 2022’s total of 512 (including foreign games) paling in comparison to 2017’s 9,384 games. Predictions for total approvals this year currently sit at around 800-900.