Popular game PlayerUnknown's Battleground has drawn millions of Chinese to the international playground on Steam. (Photo: IC)
Foreign video game publishers and developers are eager to kick off new business projects in China following the country's thaw on its nine-month freeze in approving video games last week.
However, insiders told the Global Times that the resumption of game approvals may not be in place until March next year and the approvals may be stricter than before.
The first batch of games passed the examination process and will be issued approval as fast as possible, the Xinhua News Agency quoted Feng Shixin, deputy director of the Copyright Bureau under Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, as saying on Friday.
Feng's remarks came after a hiatus in video game approvals since March due to an organizational reform in related authorities. Without approval from Chinese authorities, no new game is allowed to be released in China.
"This announcement is a great signal for the industry. Many of our foreign clients' businesses in China were brought to a halt by the suspension," an industry insider, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times on Sunday.
"These foreign companies are very happy to hear the news, as they are looking forward to resume their work and gradually launch new games in China," the anonymous insider said.
In addition to Chinese game companies like Tencent and Perfect World, South Korean companies including Nexon and Netmarble and Japanese companies like Capcom and Square Enix all saw their shares soar on Friday following the announcement, Bloomberg reported on Friday.
The move is also welcomed by Chinese video game players. "We really want to play new games from foreign companies that bring new experiences with higher development qualities," reads a typical comment on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform.
An industry report released on Friday shows about 626 million Chinese people play video games, and total sales income of games in 2018 is about 214.4 billion yuan ($31 billion), a 5.3 percent increase compared to last year, people.cn reported.
However, the increase is significantly lower than the 23 percent growth rate from 2017, news site thepaper.cn reported, noting that a number of game companies had been affected by the suspension.
Even industry giant Tencent's stock price declined 30 percent since the beginning of the year due to the suspension of approval of video games. Smaller companies that could not get approval for new games saw their income slashed, the paper.cn reported.
Despite positive feedback from foreign game companies, insiders said the resumption of game approvals will not be in place until March and new approvals might be even stricter than they were prior to the suspension of approvals.
Zhang Zhuo, a Beijing-based game industry insider and a former employee at Tencent, told the Global Times on Sunday that the new approval system might limit the total amount of games per batch, as companies will need to be more careful with their applications.
The content of the game will be carefully examined and games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, a popular survival shooting game developed by South Korean company Bluehole and to be published by Tencent in China, might find difficulties receiving approval due to its violent nature, he said.