It’s been a long time since consoles and video games were able to be legally sold in China. The console ban lasted for 14 years and just now companies are finally able to market their games to a Chinese audience. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that just any game will be able to be published in Chinese territories. In fact, there will be a series of incredibly strict censorship guidelines that will govern whether or not a game will be deemed appropriate. In fact, they are so strict, they give Australia a run for its money. The guidelines prohibit games that feature:
- Gambling-related content or game features–so no poker simulators or RPGs with gambling house mini-games.
- Anything that threatens China’s national unity, sovereignty, or territorial integrity–so no indie games that question the Chinese government.
- Anything that harms the nation’s reputation, security, or interests–so probably no Dynasty Warriors… if you are talking about reputation.
- Anything that instigates racial/ethnic hatred, or harms ethnic traditions and cultures–so pretty much no American made military shooter.
- Anything that violates China’s policy on religion by promoting cults or superstition–so no RPG where you have to fight god.
- Anything that promotes or incites obscenity, drug use, violence, or gambling–so no GTA or anything even close to it.
- Anything that harms public ethics or China’s culture and traditions–that’s a double whammy for Dynasty Warriors.
- Anything that insults, slanders, or violates the rights of others–no toxic online behavior then, that’s not the worst thing in the world.
- Anything that violates China’s constitution
- Other content that violates the law
In addition, all games must be approved by the Shanghai government culture department. Games that are denied will have their reason for denial clearly stated, and developers may choose to change their game and resubmit if they like. In addition, updates and DLC must also be submitted for approval, even if the main game has already been approved.
All joking aside, these regulations do present a few problems for the game development industry. For example, many games are patched pretty regularly. In addition, it’s very difficult to find any game that exists without any sort of violent content in it. Violence is the number one source of conflict in game stories. The regulations as they stand prevent many games, good and bad, from hitting China’s stores. For example, games like Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us or Spec Ops: The Line would never fly.
Which begs the question, is China the land of untapped resources and unlimited potential that we thought it was going to be? Or are we simply going to struggle with the Chinese government whenever we try to publish something. Many of you may remember the difficult time that Saints Row IV had getting published in Australia. It looks like it will have a similar or worse problem in China. What do you think? Will China open up its borders to great games, or will it shut down awesome but violent titles like The Last of Us ?