The approval of imported games effectively marks the end of Beijing’s crackdown on the video games industry which began last August when regulators suspended the game approval process.
China's video game regulator granted publishing licences to 44 foreign games for domestic release，including seven from South Korea, further lifting rigid curbs that have hammered the industry for 18 months.
South Korean gaming stocks, including Netmarble, NCSOFT, Krafton, Kakao Games and Devsisters jumped between 2% and more than 17% in morning trade on Thursday, a day after Chinese authorities granted publishing licenses.
Among the imported online games approved by the National Press and Publication Administration are five to be published by Tencent Holdings such as "Pokémon Unite" by Nintendo and "Valorant" by Riot Games, according to a list the regulator released. The regulator also approved 84 domestic games.
In China, unlike in most other countries, video games need approval from regulators before release.
The year-long crackdown on the industry has dealt a significant blow to Chinese tech companies including Tencent and NetEase which derive substantial revenue from publishing both self-developed and imported games.
China's crackdown on the video game industry began in August last year when regulators suspended the game approval process. Regulators resumed issuing game licenses to homegrown games in April. Through various affiliated companies, Tencent, the world's largest gaming company, has effectively received a total of six licences in December, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Tencent only received its first commercial game licence in over a year-and-a-half last month, which was seen then as an important signal towards policy normalisation for the industry.
Besides Tencent, NetEase, ByteDance, XD and iDreamSky have also received game approvals in December.
The number of licences granted are fewer than in previous years. China approved 76 imported games in 2021 and 456 in 2017.
In a year-end meeting this month, Pony Ma, founder of Tencent, said that the company had to get used to Beijing’s strict licensing regime, and the number of new games that China approves would remain limited in the long run.