So far in 2021: A Quick Look At Game Licenses in China

Already this year, 168 domestic game licenses have been approved this year by the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) as of February 7, 2021.

This figure is nearly double the 97 imported game licenses that were approved in all of 2020. With no foreign game licenses announced so far in 2021, we expect the number of foreign games approved for the Chinese market to continue to be sparse this year, following trends that began in 2019 which some speculated to coincide with the U.S.-China trade war.

We have also already seen our first revoked game license this year. According to an announcement by the NPPA, the game license for “Douyou Doudizhu”(斗游斗地主) published by Heilongjiang Longhua Digital Publishing Co., Ltd. and operated by Harbin Sing Technology Development Co., Ltd. was revoked on January 13, 2021. The reason for the cancellation has not been announced.

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The first Chinese game license revoked in 2021

Also of special note this year is the second “Notice on Disposal of Illegal and Violated Apps” issued on January 11 by the Guangdong Provincial Communications Administration.

Based on review of apps conducted November-December 2020, the administration identified 201 apps that contain security vulnerabilities or infringe on user rights. Developers were ordered to rectify or shut down these apps by February.

30 game apps were identified in the list, including big names such as Tencent’s “Tiantian Chess” (天天象棋), NetEase’s “Treasure Pavilion” (藏宝阁), 4399’s “Hot Blood Sword” (热血神剑), Mini Play’s “Mini World” (迷你世界), Jinke Culture “Tom Cat Big Adventure” (汤姆猫大冒险) and other products.

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Game apps identified for rectification on Jan 11, 2020

There are generally three listed reasons behind these rectification requests:

  • The app accesses protected device functions without asking user permission;
  • The app collects user information without permission by itself or by using an embedded third-party SDK;
  • Users are not given the option to cancel and/or delete accounts.

These rectification notices are issued regularly to focus the industry’s attention on the issue of apps violating user privacy or containing security vulnerabilities.

In 2019-2020, the Guangdong Provincial Communications Administration issued a total of 419 “Notices for Disposal of Illegal and Violated Apps” and “Notices for Ordering Rectification” involving 579 apps. More than 300 illegal and harmful apps were shut down and 37 operators administratively punished. Four cases were app stores, which were punished and included in the list of bad business operations in telecommunications. 

Combined with the recent actions on the Apple App Store and other app markets, Chinese authorities are gradually standardizing their review of apps, which indicates more supervision and regulation may follow this year and next. Based on what we have seen so far, the regulatory authorities has shown they are willing to take an egalitarian approach across companies big and small.

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