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Lennox Kalifungwa

China Allows Pokemon Game Into The Country As Gaming Crackdown Ends

Controller appearing in from of the skyscrapers. in this file photo. China has appeared to reverse some its policies toward international video games. SCREENSHOT/METANEWS
A first look at the first-ever theme park land themed to a video game franchise at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Super Nintendo World on Monday, Dec. 19, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. Unlike in other countries, video games need license from regulators before their release in China and many games have been blocked there since 2021. DANIA MAXWELL/METANEWS

The publication of a Pokemon game and others in China suggest a major policy reversal. The policy which began last year had put at least 14,000 companies out of business.

 Video game regulators in China have given a nod for release of 44 foreign video games as the country’s tough stance on the gaming industry starts to thaw. Since August 2021, China has cracked down on the gaming industry.

The latest development will see 44 foreign games including 7 from South Korea released in the country. 

According to a separate list released last Wednesday, the regulator also approved 84 domestic games for December.

Among the imported games approved by the National Press and Publication Administration are 5, which will be published by Tencent Holdings, including Pokémon Unite by Nintendo and Valorant by Riot Games, according to the regulator’s list.

“It was the first time since 2016 that Korean online games got approvals on a big scale,” said Ahn Jaemin, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities, in a media statement. “The resumption of approval will give a positive momentum to the game industry overall.”

Following announcement by Chinese gaming industry regulator on the licensing, South Korean gaming stocks including Netmarble Corp, NCSOFT, Krafton, Kakao Games and Devsisters, rose by 2% to 17%.

During a year-end meeting, Tencent founder Pony Ma said the company has to get used to the country’s tight licensing landscape, adding the number of new games that China approves will remain limited in the long run.

Unlike in other countries, video games need license from regulators before their release in China.

Its tough stance on gaming industry had a knock on effect on tech companies like Tencent and NetEase Inc that derive a significant chunk of revenue from publishing self-developed games as well as imported ones.

Since August 2021, China went after the country’s tech giants, which are among the world’s top gaming industry players with some estimated annual sales of $44 billion.

The crackdown on the industry is believed to have wiped more than $1 trillion off the value of the Chinese tech companies.

Among the allegations leveled against the tech companies were abuse of monopolistic power and misuse of data.

Chinese authorities also argued the rules were to “effectively protect the physical and mental health of minors” while children under the age of 18 would be allowed to play online games between 8pm and 9pm.

Retro video game machine at Gamergy 2022 at Ifema on December 17, 2022, in Madrid, Spain. Tencent is one of the international companies which has been impacted by China’s video game ban. DAVID BENITO/METANEWS

In April last year, regulators started issuing licenses to homegrown games and approval of foreign games was seen as the last hurdle to be removed.

The world’s largest gaming company – Tencent was granted a total of 6 licenses according to sources with knowledge who spoke to Reuters.

Tencent received its first commercial license in November last year since August 2021 when the country got tough on the gaming industry.

Other imported games that were approved include CD Projekt’s CDR.WA “Gwent: The Witcher Card Game” and Klei Entertainment’s “Don’t Starve.”

Apart from Tencent, NetEase, ByteDance, XD Inc and iDreamSky also received game approvals in December. Shares of these companies – excluding NetEase – have recorded gains of between 0.8% and 5.2% in Hong Kong while Japan’s Nintendo rose 0.2%.

In 2021, China approved 76 imported games compared to 456 approved in 2017.China is referred to as the capital of gaming industry accounting for 25% of the global video game industry.

According to INTENTADIGITAL, gamers in China spend more time playing video games compared to any other activity.

There are over 685 million gamers in China, which is almost half its population.At least 80% of gamers watch live streamlining while 70% of gamers play esports. Of the gamers, 48% are female.

In 2021, Chinese video game revenue was estimated to be around $46 billion, which was a slowdown from 2020 after authorities imposed strict play limits for under 18s and froze game license approvals.

On a global scale, the gaming industry is projected to continue growing towards 2025 with nearly 3.2 billion people estimated to have played games in 2022 alone, spending about $196.8 billion according to a global games market report.


Produced in association with MetaNews.

(Additional reporting provided by Lennox Kalifungwa)

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