China’s “green channel” game approval process has been completely stopped, meaning that licenses for sales are no longer being granted to new titles vying to enter the world’s largest gaming market. [Thanks, Bloomberg!]
While the “green channel” which has been in place since around August 2017 has always just been a temporary measure, the closure of this channel means that game companies both local and overseas are unable to get their games approved. While larger companies like Tencent have been able to weather the storm with prior-approved games so far since at least March 2018, indie developers have instead been flocking to Steam, available overseas. It is unknown how long Steam will remain unblocked.
All this has created a grey market for licenses, where publishing licenses are being sold for as much as 500,000 yuan. However, there are some good signs – games that already have licenses aren’t affected, and continue to be allowed to be sold and supported.
Finally, Niko Partners also reveals that a notice to reform the approval process, effective November 10, 2018, has been posted by China’s State Council. The reforms will effectively cut the approval process time, and the State Council still intends to promote online gaming and standardize the approval process. It’s just unclear when these reforms will start, especially with the recent departure of the State Administration of Press and Publication’s director, Zhuang Rongwen.