China is gradually softening its stance on the video game approval process. According to the latest forecast from Niko Partners, the local regulator will issue twice as many licenses this year as in 2022.
The National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) approved 288 games in the first quarter of 2023, as Niko Partners reported last week. 27 of them were titles from Western developers, including Gorogoa, Sping Valley, and Merge Mansion.
- Analysts expect China to license over 1,100 games in 2023. For comparison, in 2022 and 2021, the NPPA approved 512 and 755 titles respectively.
- The last time the total number of game approvals crossed the 1,000 mark was in 2020 when the regulator issued 1,411 licenses.
- According to Niko Partners, China currently licenses around 87 games per month, which is a sign of a return to normal.
- In addition to the 27 foreign titles approved in March, the NPPA is expected to issue 2-3 more batches of foreign game approvals before the end of 2023.
The number of game approvals in China from 2018 to 2023 (Source: Niko Partners)
- China still remains a closed market, but it is getting easier for global companies to enter it this year.
- Another positive trend is global hit titles for PC and mobile, such as Valorant, Lost Ark, Uma Musume Pretty Derby, and Pokemon Unite, have finally broken into the Chinese market.
- “The return to a regular monthly cadence of domestic game approvals, the restart of import game license approvals, a more positive stance from regulators, and increased supply of global IP into the market are strong indicators of a new normal for China game market licensing in 2023,” Niko Parnters concluded.
Chinese authorities put the video game approval process on pause in July 2021, which resulted in a 263-day licensing freeze — the longest since 2018. The freeze ended last April, but even local tech giants like Tencent and NetEaes had to wait for months to get their new titles approved.
In December, the NPPA approved the first batch of foreign games in 18 months. For more insights on video game licensing in China, read our interview with Playkot, which has come a long way to publish its mobile title Spring Valley in the country.