It’s been known for several months now that China is now willing to open its trade borders to allow foreign game consoles to be sold in the country. As console manufacturers move closer to releasing Chinese versions of their consoles, more information has come out concerning what requirements these manufacturers will have. The Shanghai government release details both requirements for consoles and for games release in the Chinese market.
The document is pretty complex, but here are the details for some of the more noticeable and important rules for anyone hoping to sell a game or console in China;
Foreign manufacturers can produce and sell consoles in China, but will need to work with a local partner and distribute out of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.
All games that want to be sold in China have to be approved by the “culture department in charge”. Fortunately, this refers to Shanghai’s local culture department and not the potentially more strict Ministry of Culture.
The process for game approval will be no longer than 20 days, which is great considering that other cultural product approvals can take longer.
Any game that do not meet the requirements for sale in China will be rejected with the reason for doing so clearly stated. This appears to function similar to rating boards in other countries like Australia and Germany. Content that will cause a game to be rejected includes;
Gambling-related content or game features.
Anything violating China’s constitution.
Anything threatening China’s national unity, sovereignty, of territorial integrity.
Anything harming the nation’s reputation, security, or interests.
Anything instigating racial/ethnic hatred, or harms ethnic traditions and cultures.
Anything violating China’s policy on religion by promoting cults or superstitions.
Anything promoting or inciting obscenity, drug use, violence, or gambling.
Anything harming public ethics or China’s culture and traditions.
Anything that insults, slanders, or violates the rights of others.
Other content that violates the law.
With game content rules like this, it’s very likely that the vast majority of AAA games would not fly in China. That would either mean that these games would have to be heavily censored or developers would make China-approved games from the ground up. Out of all of the current-gen console games, the Wii U ones would probably have the least problem with China’s censorship since the main focus has been family-friendly games.
A couple more details regarding the games themselves include;
Game updates will need to be submitted for approval as well. This will most likely apply to new in-game content in the form of DLC and not patch updates. This will need to be done even if the core game has been approved already.
Console games will need to have a simplified Chinese version, which means that games released in territories like Taiwan can’t simply be resold since they use traditional Chinese characters.
With rules like these, it’s hard to be optimistic about how the Chinese market will fare for foreign games. Considering that the consumer market is massive, almost on par with the US, manufacturers and developers will do well if they can get past the censorship hurdle. Either way, it will be nice to see a demographic that has been largely unserved by foreign consoles for many years be able to get their hands on the games we love.