There are no titles from big tech firms Tencent and NetEase on the list of approved games.
The Chinese regulator granted publishing licenses to 60 online games. This was the largest relaxation in the online gaming market since July 2021. In April, the regulator granted licenses to 45 games, which also did not include titles from Tencent and NetEase.
Tencent shares have fallen 34 per cent since last July in Hong Kong, while NetEase shares are down 7.5 per cent in the same period.
The list approved by the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) included titles belonging to developers such as Perfect World, Mihoyo and Hero Entertainment.
The NPPA switched to publishing a monthly list of approved titles starting in 2018. The move was prompted by a wave of parental concerns about children's gambling addiction, often amplified by the state-owned media and China’s legislators.
According to the Game Publishing Committee (GPC), the number of gamers in China rose by just 0.22 per cent to 66.6 million gamers in 2021, compared with a 3.7 per cent in 2020.
As SCMP reminds, China's strict new game licensing system stemmed from a re-evaluation by authorities about the extent to which modern video games can influence a person’s mindset and views. All online video games that reach Chinese players must be screened and censored by the state in the same way that books, movies, and television programmes are.
China's censors are particularly vigilant about foreign games, censoring and localizing them.
Pressure on the industry intensified last year after President Xi Jinping said gaming addiction among the country's youth had become a social problem, and state media dubbed games "spiritual opium”.
Video game developers are forced to use a variety of technologies, from facial recognition to artificial intelligence to special verification systems, to make sure that players are not aged under 18.
In addition, players under 18 were restricted to playing only between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays.