After China put a halt to new game licenses provided to publishers for releasing titles in the mainland, as reported by the China Briefing back in September of 2018, the state regulators are planning to open up the market and grant more licenses at the end of February, 2019. However, reinstating game releases comes with a rather hefty caveat: games must be curated and flagged for censorship by the new Online Games Ethics Committee.
The South China Morning Post has indicated that 20 games have already been submitted to the OGEC, and that nine of those games have been outright rejected while 11 others will need to be censored to fit within the 10 Rules of Censorship that China has established for releasing video games in the mainland…
“The recently formed Online Games Ethics Committee has so far evaluated an initial batch of 20 video game titles, according to a report on Friday from state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). This was the first time the committee’s existence was made public.
“Without elaborating, the CCTV report said the ethics committee rejected nine games for publication in the domestic market, while ruling that certain content be modified in the 11 other games that were reviewed.”
The report notes that there have been no confirmation on which branch of the Chinese government the OGEC belongs to, but typically the arts and media content are under the control of the Ministry of Culture.
The basic rules of China’s censorship are as follows, and a detailed explanation of each rule is listed over on the website 163.
1.) Gambling-related content or game features
2.) Anything that violates China’s constitution
3.) Anything that threatens China’s national unity, sovereignty, or territorial integrity.
4.) Anything that harms the nation’s reputation, security, or interests.
5.) Anything that instigates racial/ethnic hatred, or harms ethnic traditions and cultures.
6.) Anything that violates China’s policy on religion by promoting cults or superstitions.
7.) Anything that promotes or incites obscenity, drug use, violence, or gambling.
8.) Anything that harms public ethics or China’s culture and traditions.
9.) Anything that insults, slanders, or violates the rights of others.
10.) Other content that violates the law
Unfortunately we don’t know what 20 games were submitted to China for release in the mainland, nor do we know the nine games that were rejected or the 11 games that will need to be censored before being released.
We do know that Ubisoft attempted to make global changes to Rainbow Six: Siege by censoring various artwork and content, but after a major outcry they reverted the changes. It’s possible that it was one of the 20 games submitted.
A lot of gamers aren’t very fond of China having such sway on the mainstream video game market because they’re expecting a dark age of censorship, as some publishers will attempt to cut costs by censoring out content across the board to meet China’s standards instead of making a core game for the West and a specially censored version for China. And with China’s has an ever-growing mainstream market of gamers who consist of both males and females around the same age, as noted in a report by Quantic Foundry, it’s not hard to see why some top publishers are salivating over the idea of getting their software in the mainland.
Also, given that gamers’ main worries about censorship came true with Ubisoft attempting to do a one-size-fits-all package of Rainbow Six: Siege for the global audience, I don’t think the outrage over this kind of global despotism for content curation is unwarranted.
Some also believe that Sony and Microsoft may make changes to games allowed on their systems to court the Chinese audience, but the PS4 and Xbox One haven’t made a lot of headway in China. Sony has sold less than 2 million PS4 SKUs in China according to a Niko Partners report, and Microsoft hasn’t moved much more than that since launching the Xbox One in China back in 2014. So they’re dealing with a much smaller market share when compared to their already established base in Japan, the Americas, and Europe.
(Thanks for the news tip Ebicentre)