China has granted publishing licenses to several non-Chinese games, ending a freeze that has lasted for 18 months. The list of games includes big hitters like Valorant and Pokemon Unite, although Tencent says it doesn't expect Beijing to return to its old ways of granting hundreds of licenses a year anytime soon.
Recently, Chinese state media has been shifting its position towards video games, which has been broadly negative for some time now. Last month, for instance, an article on the Chinese state-run People's Daily news site declared that video games could be a force for cultural good, seemingly softening if not outright reversing Beijing's previous frosty opposition towards gaming.
Now, Reuters reports that Chinese gaming regulators have granted 45 licenses to foreign games wishing to launch in the country. As part of those licenses, Tencent, which had a months-long freeze in licensing broken last month, has been granted five new licenses, including for some big hitters that are immensely popular on Western shores.
The list of imported games includes Pokemon Unite, a Nintendo property, and Valorant, developed by American studio Riot Games. Both titles were created in conjunction with the Chinese giant Tencent, but they technically count as imported games rather than native ones. The 45-strong list also includes survival favorite Don't Starve and card battler Gwent: The Witcher Card Game, according to Reuters.
These approvals come after a heavy and lengthy crackdown on the gaming industry on the part of the Chinese government. Said crackdown led to tech companies and developers pledging to reduce the amount of "politically harmful" content in their games and also saw a drop of 40 million in youth gamer numbers, mostly thanks to strict timing curbs that restricted minors to playing for just one hour on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays.
It now seems that Beijing is softening its approach to the gaming industry, although, as Reuters points out, 45 approvals pales in comparison to the 456 games approved in 2017. Tencent founder Pony Ma says that the number of new approvals will remain low in the long run, so Tencent must get used to the way things are now. We'll bring you more on gaming in China as soon as we get it.