China hasn’t approved any new games since July. It is the longest freeze since 2018 when the government stopped giving licenses for nine months. This situation has already made some developers go to the black market.
The National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) usually releases a list of new titles which got a license every month. The government agency, however, hasn’t published a list of approved games in the last 100 days, according to South China Morning Post.
Local game developers hoped that the freeze would end in October after the National Day holiday. It didn’t happen, so the Chinese games industry is now in limbo. Even if the NPPA, which used to approve around 80-100 games each month, starts to approve new titles again, only a few developers will be able to get a license.
Due to the freeze, some studios started to sell licenses for their existing games to other companies with similar titles in the black market. This act of despair, however, violates gaming regulations in China, and developers might be facing fines of up to 10 times their annual revenue.
“It makes sense that regulators would push game makers to enact the new regulations and make sure those mechanics and procedures are in place first before approving new games, so that probably explains why there’s been a lack of new approvals,” Bloomberg Intelligence senior analyst Matthew Kanterman said.
China slowed down the approval for new games in September. Last month, the local regulators made the whole process stricter, saying that developers shouldn’t make players choose between good and bad, touch on LGBTQ+ topics, and change history.
The freeze is taking place amid the strong pressure Chinese developers are facing from the government. Regulators try to close the remaining loopholes for local studios, issuing new rules and cutting playtime for minors to only three hours a week.