On Feb. 10, China’s National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) released its approval list of domestic online games for February 2023 on its official website, with titles by Tencent, ByteDance, and NetEase among those given the green light.

Why it matters: The new list is the ninth batch of games approved in China since the NPPA resumed its issuing of licenses in April 2022 following an eight month pause. As with January, the number of new licenses this month exceeded 80, higher than any month in 2022 and a sign that China’s gaming regulators may be returning to a more consistent approach to approvals after months of uncertainty. 

Details: Some 87 new domestic games have been granted licenses by the NPPA, including 79 mobile games, seven PC titles, and one game for Nintendo Switch. 

  • Tencent’s high-profile new game King Chess, a strategy battle mobile game that is part of the company’s attempts to build an Honor of Kings “universe,” was among those gaining approval. The official WeChat account for the game claimed on Feb. 10 that it is still in development and will undergo beta testing in the near future. 
  • NetEase, another Chinese gaming giant that has struggled for new title approvals in the past 18 months, saw the mobile version of its massively multiplayer online role-playing game Fantasy Westward Journey make the list of February approvals.
  • ByteDance has three new titles on the list: The Leader of the Battle from its publisher Ohayoo; Matrix: Out of Control by wholly-owned subsidiary Nuverse; and Hyper Instant Connection by its newly acquired company C4Games (all titles our translations). 

Context: China’s gaming industry has been sluggish over the past year due to tightening regulations on the industry and strict limits on young gamers.

  • The total revenue of the video games market in China slumped 10.33% to RMB 265.9 billion in 2022, while game users declined slightly, down 0.33% year-on-year to 664 million, according to a report by the country’s semi-official games industry association.
  • In August 2021, Chinese authorities restricted the weekly gaming hours for minors under the age of 18 to one hour a day on Fridays, weekends, and public holidays.
  • China’s eight-month gaming license freeze was lifted in April 2022, but new approvals remained limited throughout the year. Just 513 game licenses, including 468 domestic games and 45 imported games, were issued over the course of 2022, 38% fewer than in 2021 and only a third of those approved in 2020, according to Caixin’s calculations. Tencent, one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, didn’t receive its first major approval of the year until November.

Jessie Wu is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. She covers consumer electronics, semiconductor, and the gaming industry for TechNode. Connect with her via e-mail: jessie.wu@technode.com.

Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Shanghai. She covers e-commerce and retail, AI, and blockchain. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]technode.com.