Over 1,000 game licenses approved in China in 2023

In a surprising turn of events that defies the global trend of increased gaming regulations, China’s regulatory body gave the green light to 105 new video games in December. This move not only set a record for the highest number of authorizations in a single month since July 2022 but also propelled the total approvals for the year above the 1,000 mark, marking a stark departure from the prevailing regulatory environment elsewhere.

The year 2023 proved to be largely successful for the Chinese gaming industry, as reported by the South China Morning Post. December alone witnessed the approval of 105 new licenses for domestically developed games and 98 imported titles. Notable approvals included Tencent’s Assault Fire: Future and NetEase’s Lost Light and Sifangyuzhishi, contributing to the grand total of 1,076 games granted licenses throughout the year – a figure almost precisely predicted by industry experts at Niko Partners.

Surpassing the 2022 count of 512 approvals, the substantial increase in authorizations was the result of consistently high monthly figures. The momentum began in January with 88 approvals, featuring the year’s most significant new game for China, Honkai: Star Rail, which swiftly amassed $500 million in revenue within months of its release.

Monthly approvals remained robust until reaching a peak of 89 in June, a record only surpassed by the December figures. Notably, licenses were predominantly granted to mobile games, the preferred platform for gaming in the country. In July, mobile games constituted 86% of the 88 approved titles. By October, more than half of China’s population was actively engaged in video gaming.

Despite monthly approvals remaining below pre-pandemic levels, the domestic revenues from games reached unprecedented heights, exceeding $42 billion for the year. This reaffirmed China’s renewed support for the gaming industry, signaling a return to stability after years of regulatory inconsistency.

However, the unpredictability of gaming legislation in China took center stage once again, as the positive trajectory of 2023 was abruptly halted by the announcement of a new gaming crackdown in the last week. Despite the earlier leniency, China is now making moves to outlaw log-in bonuses, loot boxes, and gacha mechanics. These regulatory changes have already had significant financial repercussions, causing Tencent and NetEase’s combined value to plummet by a staggering $80 billion.

As the gaming industry in China navigates these regulatory shifts, the uncertainties surrounding the future pose challenges for both domestic and international gaming companies operating within the country. The dichotomy of a record-breaking year followed by sudden regulatory setbacks underscores the dynamic and ever-changing nature of China’s gaming landscape.

Written by Sophie Blake


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