Apple is requiring game makers worldwide to submit their license numbers gained from a Chinese content regulator if they want to monetize their products in mainland China.

Why it matters: Apple is adhering more strictly to a Chinese government rule that requires all paid games or games that use in-app purchases to obtain a publication license before they can be uploaded to app stores.

  • Foreign companies are not allowed to apply for the license. They have to partner with local companies to legally launch their paid games in China.

Details: Apple has sent a notice to developers requiring them to submit license numbers for paid games or games offering in-app purchases before Jun. 30 if they want to distribute in mainland China, according to a report from AppInChina, a mobile service company that helps foreign apps enter the country.

  • “Chinese law requires games to secure an approval number from the General Administration of Press and Publication of China,” Apple said in the notice.
  • This may be the first time Apple has directly required developers to submit license numbers and it seems like that the company is tightening implementation of the Chinese government’s regulations on paid games, Todd Kuhns, marketing manager at AppInChina, told TechNode.
  • Foreign game makers were able to bypass the restrictions by submitting a random number. A report by The Information suggests that Apple doesn’t actually check the license numbers.
  • The game approval number for Mini Metro, a mobile game developed by New Zealand game studio Dinosaur Polo Club that is sold on the Chinese App Store for RMB 25 (around $3.6), cannot be found on the Chinese National Radio and Television Administration’s (NRTA) license database.
  • “I think [bypassing the review system has] been an open secret for a while now,” Kuhns said.
  • It is unclear how games without the approval number will be treated after the Jun. 30 deadline. Apple did not immediately reply to inquiries sent by TechNode on Tuesday.

Context: The NRTA issued a notice in 2016 requiring mobile games to obtain approval from the administration before publishing.

  • China froze mobile game approvals for nine months in 2018, causing the country’s gaming industry to record its slowest growth in at least a decade.

Wei Sheng

Wei Sheng is a Beijing-based reporter covering hardware, smartphone, and telecommunications, along with regulations and policies related to the China tech scene. Before joining TechNode, he wrote about...

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