More than 200 Chinese gaming companies, including the state-backed GPC association and several prominent developers, have pledged to enforce stricter self-regulation following a Beijing crackdown. This enforcement will include moderation of objectionable content and cracking down on overseas loopholes.
What will this new Chinese gaming self-regulation pledge entail?
This news comes courtesy of the South China Morning Post. The pledge involves over 200 Chinese gaming companies, including prominent developers such as Tencent and NetEase as well as the Chinese GPC gaming industry association. In the pledge, the companies declared that they would more stringently incorporate and enforce anti-addiction measures in games, expanding the reach of these measures not only to online games but also to single-player and console-based titles. The companies are also pledging to stop offering services such as account renting or companion services to younger gamers.
In addition to limiting these services, the pledge also affirms the companies' commitment to removing or banning "politically harmful" content in their games. According to the SCMP, these types of content include "effeminate men", "money worship", and "gay love". The companies also said they would boycott "circumventing regulatory procedures" and using overseas platforms to let Chinese gamers bypass or undercut restrictions. As the SCMP's Josh Ye points out, these measures would, if strictly enforced, plug a legal gray area allowing overseas devs to target Chinese gamers without being subject to the strict Chinese approval process.
The Chinese government-backed NPPA (National Press and Publication Administration) hasn't published a list of approved games for August yet. Sources speaking to TechRaptor have told us that this is due to regulatory changes implemented requiring stronger anti-addiction and time-limiting for minors. Our sources tell us that these issues are the reason games from Chinese developers have been delayed in some cases internationally, as well as domestically.
What's the background for this Chinese gaming pledge?
Earlier this year, the NPPA described gaming as "spiritual opium" and condemned the effect it supposedly has on young people, although that statement was later taken down. As a result, the Chinese gaming regulator introduced new policies stating that minors (those under the age of 18) can only play video games between the hours of 8pm and 9pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and statutory state holidays. Those policies only apply to online games at present, but the pledge being made by these companies also extends to single-player games (although the legislation doesn't cover these games, so enforcement in this regard would be voluntary).
At present, many loopholes exist allowing developers and gamers to circumvent these policies. Steam, for example, is widely available with very little effort on behalf of gamers, and international games can be purchased or downloaded with no issues. A Chinese version of Steam is currently in beta, but the number of games available on the service is heavily restricted, as are the features gamers can access on the service. This led many to fear that the international version of Steam would eventually be banned in the country, something that looks more possible now that developers are moving in line with the Beijing gaming crackdown.
Speaking to SCMP, legal associate Charles Yu pointed out that this pledge is not legally binding. It is, however, something to which the industry will refer in the future, according to Yu. He said the enforcement of this article "remains to be seen", but that it contains a number of unknowns that could heavily impact developers. Questions that remain include whether a Chinese developer's overseas team would be subject to this pledge, or whether an overseas developer with Chinese investment would need to operate under its parameters. We'll bring you more on this as we get it.
How do you feel about this new Chinese gaming pledge? Let us know in the comments below!