China’s media regulator released its December game licensing list for domestic and imported games on Wednesday. The National Press and Publication Administration approved 84 China-made games and 44 imported overseas games. Among those winning approval, Tencent got a green light for Pokémon Unite, part of the famous franchise co-developed with Nintendo. NetEase also scored several approvals. 

Why it matters: Despite the resumption of gaming licenses in April after an eight-month freeze, China again skipped approvals this year in May and October, and overall approved far fewer games than in previous years. The country approved 468 domestic games this year, 38% less than in 2021 and only a third of those approved in 2020, according to Caixin’s calculations

Details: Tencent received approval for one domestic game and five imported games. NetEase got one domestic game and two imported games approved. Alibaba’s Lingxi Game and ByteDance’s Nuverse won approval for one imported game each. 

  • Tencent’s NExT studio got its third-person shooting game Synced: Off-Planet approved. The world-leading game developer also won approvals for five imported games: Pokémon Unite, Valorant, Don’t Starve Newhome, The Age of Navigation: Sea Overlord, and Crossfire developer Smile Gate’s Lost Ark.
  • NetEase’s Racing Masters, a racing game co-developed with British car game developer Codemasters, also won approval. NetEase also gained licenses for Raid: Shadow Legends and Fantasy Life, two imported role-playing games. 
  • Chinese gaming firm Perfect World also won approval for two imports: Two Point Hospital and Dorfromantik.

Context: Although the Chinese regulator has shown signs of loosening the crackdown on the gaming industry that began in August 2021, it is still handing licenses to fewer games and doing so with less frequency than before. 

  • This round of approvals was the first time in 17 months that the Chinese regulator gave nods to imported games developed overseas. Last year, the regulator handed out imported game licenses in June, approving 76 games, 42% more titles than on this year’s approved list.