Chinese games industry publishes draft of rules for self-regulation

The Gaming Publishing Committee of the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association published a draft of new self-discipline guidelines for the distribution and promotion of games, reports The South China Morning Post.

The draft was co-written by over a dozen Chinese tech and gaming companies, including Tencent, Perfect World, and 37Games. This marks the first detailed set of self-discipline rules since China instituted tighter regulations in late 2021. It’s possible, although perhaps unlikely, that the companies hope they can avoid strict scrutiny going forward by holding themselves to account.

Under the rules, a game needs to meet 11 requirements before distribution. Games must not promote “obscenity, pornography, gambling, violence, or aid crimes.” Further, games should not endanger national security, damage national honour of interests, or leak state secrets.

Advertising must also remain “in line with the requirements of building a Socialist Spiritual Civilisation.”

“In 2021, the number of domestic gamers reached 666 million … driven by the huge market and interest, a large number of games were illegally published and promoted, flooding the market,” said the association. “A continuation of this trend is not conducive to the healthy development of the video game industry.”

Keeping up with established trends

The rules continue China’s established focus on protecting minors, first introduced in 2021.

“The majority of the new rules follow provisions in existing laws and regulations for online games,” said law firm Guangdong Baishijie partner Lilith Lee. “But they will serve as an integrated reference point for upstream and downstream practitioners across the entire industry, not just for a certain type.”

Any online games going forward have to be connected to the “Online Game Anti-addiction Real-name Verification System”, a technology which will identify underage players to ensure they don’t exceed the three hours per week limit imposed by the government.

These new guidelines come as the Chinese gaming industry finds its feet following a turbulent 2022. In the first two months of 2023 the country has approved 175 new licences, nearly a third of the total in all of 2022.

We listed Tencent as one of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2022.

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