China’s new games censors take tough stance

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Video games have been linked to myopia and addiction in China

A panel of censors set up to vet mobile video games in China has signalled it will be hard to please.

State media reports that of the first 20 titles it assessed, nine were refused permission to go on sale.

The Xinhua news agency added that developers of the other 11 had been told they had to make adjustments to remove “controversial content”.

There has been a clampdown on new video game releases in the country since March.

The authorities have voiced concerns about the violent nature of some titles as well as worries about the activity being addictive.

President Xi Jinping has also called for more to be done to tackle a rise in near-sightedness among the young – something that the country’s ministry of education has linked to children playing video games at the cost of spending time on outdoor pastimes.

It was announced in August that a new body – the State Administration of Press and Publications – had taken over responsibility for approving games and that it would limit the number of online titles available.

And although it has not been specified, some experts are assuming that the new panel will operate under its auspices.

Games backlog

Until an announcement by China’s Communist Party’s central committee on Friday, the online video games review panel’s existence had not been made public.

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China requires all mobile games to be licensed, even if they are free

Xinhua said it is comprised of gaming experts, government-employed researchers, and representatives from the media and video games industry.

But it provided no other information about who they were or the titles they had already examined.

Nor was there any hint of when the freeze on new releases might end.

The Wall Street Journal suggested publishers might have to wait until at least March after the next annual meeting of parliament.

Analysts appear split over how to interpret the latest development.

A research note from the US-based Jefferies Financial Group described the move as being “progressive” and speculated that a timetable for approved video games releases would soon follow.

But South Korea’s Kiwoom Securities said the committee’s existence indicated that the Chinese government intended to tighten regulation of the industry.

One industry-watcher observed there was a big backlog to clear, meaning it could be a long while before matters settled down.

“China is the biggest games market globally – there had always been some stiffness of regulation around certain games but the mobile space had been relatively unscathed from that and there seemed to be a lot more freedom for smartphone titles,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, research company IHS Markit’s games expert.

“But you now have a new organisation and what sounds like more stringent criteria.

“There will be a learning process involved in that for publishers and I think we could be waiting six to 12 months before things return to some sort of normality.”



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