GamesinAsia has outlined some of the rules China has set regarding the sale and distribution of console games in China. As attention grabbing as the Battlefield 4 ban has been, they don’t seem that bad at all.
There is one thing China wants above other things, and it’s not a lack of violent content. You’ll see what I mean below.
OK, so as we already know, China requires that game companies partner with a local company in Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone. There will also be a ‘culture department’ in charge of approving games, but this isn’t a centralized board in the capital. Instead, it’s a smaller department specific to Shanghai.
The approval process won’t take longer than 20 days, and the game needs as simplified Chinese version, so translations geared for Hong Kong and Taiwan won’t be enough.
Now, here are the things that will force a ban of your game:
- Gambling-related content or game features
- Anything that violates China’s constitution
- Anything that threatens China’s national unity, sovereignty, or territorial integrity.
- Anything that harms the nation’s reputation, security, or interests.
- Anything that instigates racial/ethnic hatred, or harms ethnic traditions and cultures.
- Anything that violates China’s policy on religion by promoting cults or superstitions.
- Anything that promotes or incites obscenity, drug use, violence, or gambling.
- Anything that harms public ethics or China’s culture and traditions.
- Anything that insults, slanders, or violates the rights of others.
- Other content that violates the law
I know the rules seem incredibly harsh, and in fact, the likes of Grand Theft Auto and Infamous might not pass these regulations, but do you notice China’s main concern? It’s respect for their cultural norms and mores. This isn’t just about the state, but the Chinese people themselves.
We don’t know yet how far China will take their game regulation, but I would argue it’s perfectly reasonable for them to demand Western and Japanese devs alike don’t try to sell them games where they are made the bad guys or targets, whether you use storyline conceits to enable that or not.
We also have to remember that we don’t fully know what would and would not offend the Chinese, and so it’s understandable that the console companies are wary in making their entry.
It would seem, as inoffensive content comes and goes, that Nintendo has the best prospects for success, but we’re not putting the cart before the horse. We do hope the region proves to be a blue ocean for all the players, to push growth in the industry in these very difficult times.