Communist Party’s Propaganda Department takes charge as China’s new game license freeze could continue for ‘six months’

Further bad news for the Chinese gaming market this week, as the english-language South China Morning Post reports that the changes in games licensing in the country could take “a further four to six months to finalise the new licensing system,” this from an unnamed government source speaking the paper.

The reorganisation of game licensing puts responsibility on a single agency, the source said: “The publication bureau of the Central Propaganda Department is the body licensing games in China. Its government face, the State Administration of Press and Publication, will deal with external parties.”

This is a change from the previous system where the administration for the state broadcaster and Ministry of Culture and Tourism handled it.

Gao Baowen, an analyst with Shanghai-based Orient Securities, explained to the Post that Chinese publishers acquire licenses up to six months in advance, but these will now be running out, with no sign of a new system in place.

One alternative, for some at least, is to buy licences for ‘shell games’, where a company licenses a generic-sounding game with no intention of ever creating it, only to sell on the licence later to a developer in a hurry. Often containing words such as ‘legend’ and ‘heroes’ these won’t be of much use to western PC developers hoping to extend their brand reach into the country.

Inevitably a new system will arrive, though, and it’s looking likely it will come with a crackdown on age restrictions and screen time, as the state is worried about myopia caused by video game playing. Of course, as ever, games are just an easy target compared to improvements to the long hours of studying and the lack of outdoor playing time suffered by many young Chinese people. 

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