Tencent has finally come out of a prolonged freeze on game approvals as Beijing granted licenses to two of its mobile games this month.
According to a notice published by China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television on Thursday, Tencent is one of nearly 200 games assigned licenses in January.
That’s big news for the Shenzhen-based firm which has seen its share price plummet in the past months because the licensing halt crippled its ability to generate gaming revenues. Tencent is best known for its immensely popular WeChat messenger, but games contribute a bulk of its earnings.
Both games approved are for educational purposes so are unlikely to generate income at the level of Tencent’s more lucrative role-playing titles, such as Honor of Kings. Tencent has been at the center of government criticisms on games deemed harmful and addictive, and the firm has subsequently introduced so-called “utility games” in 2018 designed to promote traditional Chinese culture, science and technology.
China resumed its game approval process in December after a nine-month hiatus during which it worked to reshuffle its main regulating bodies for games. However, it left Tencent, the country’s biggest game publisher, and runner-up NetEase off its first batch of approved titles that month.
NetEase also scored its first post-freeze license in January and had better luck than Tencent, winning a nod for a multiplayer online role-playing game.
Despite the thawing, industry experts warn that approvals will come at a much slower rate than before as Chinese regulators look to more closely monitor game contents, putting the burden on developers and publishers to decipher new industry rules.
“The size of the gaming company does not matter. It matters how fast the company can be adapting to the new set of rules and guidelines,” Shenzhen-based game consultant Ilya Gutov told TechCrunch in December.
“As the review and approval process for games resumes, we are confident that Tencent will be producing more compliant and higher-quality cultural work for society and the public,” a Tencent spokesperson said in December, highlighting its plan to churn out contents that fit into China’s ideological agenda.