China’s dismal video gaming culture continues to suffer as a new regulation, set to go into effect this Friday, will restrict the sale of imported video games on China’s biggest e-commerce platform, Taobao.
Starting March 10, the sale of foreign video games, books, DVDs, CDs, and cassette tapes (!) will be forbidden (in Chinese) on Taobao.
Punishments of the new regulation will range from a seven-day suspension to shuttering a violator’s Taobao account permanently.
According to reports, video games will henceforth only be allowed to be purchased from any of mainland China’s app stores, the online retailer 55Haitao, or from certain smaller video game channels. Meanwhile, some Taobao sellers have said they don’t know how to follow the new rule because they haven’t been given specific details.
It’s not clear how the new rule affects the selling of video games through online digital distribution retailers.
First announced last Friday, the new regulation is an amendment to the 2007 law “Enter and Exit Supervision of Printed and Audio-Visual Goods Inspection” law. For years, parallel traders (commonly known as dàigòu 代购) have operated freely within a legal gray area that did not include video games.
But the leniency was bound to end as the Chinese government continues to wrestle more control over what its citizens see and hear.
Since 2010, only government-authorized Taobao retailers are allowed to sell imported books, magazines, and newspapers, a privilege not extended to the book and movie sections of China’s iTunes store when it was shut down by government officials in April of last year, just six months after opening.
Things have been no less dire for video games.
The industry weathered a crackdown on video game advertisement for obscenity in 2014, while last year saw mobile app and video game makers face stringent pre-authorization rules before being allowed to sell their products to Chinese consumers.
Despite the lifting of 15-year-old console ban in 2015, video games in China continue to hampered by limited game libraries, high costs, and restrictions on server locations.
Just this past February, a draft law was introduced that would ban children from playing video games at night.