China is the largest video game market in the world with over 720 million players and nearly $40 billion in revenue during 2020. Entering China is often seen as a daunting task for developers, due to the opaque regulatory landscape, yet some of the top games in China today are from developers outside the country including AAA titles such as League of Legends (Riot Games) and Call of Duty: Mobile (Activision Blizzard) as well as indie hits such as Don’t Starve (Klei Entertainment) and Human Fall Flat Mobile (Curve Digital).

Publishing a game in China involves much more than localization. Chinese law requires all games to be approved before they can be officially monetized and distributed through official channels in China. Games need to ensure they are compliant with all local regulations prior to applying for the ISBN license required to launch. Apple had to remove over 100,000 unlicensed games from the China App Store in 2020, and Valve has just launched a China version of Steam that only offers games with ISBN. Understanding these regulations, which are fully covered in our latest report, is crucial in order to succeed in the market. Further China’s games market and regulations are always evolving, and even experienced developers need to ensure that they are aware of new regulations and market updates.

Chinese law restricts applications for ISBN to domestic companies only. This means that developers will need to consider how best to partner with a Chinese publisher. There are multiple ways to approach this, and decision inputs will include the genre, platform and potential of a game.

Our newly published China Regulations & Business Report discusses the regulations, regulators, business models and decisions a games company must make when entering China’s video game market. It also lists all of the games licensed in 2020 and 2021 year to date, the countries of origin ranked by number of exported games to China, and the key publishers who have successfully launched games into the market on behalf of foreign developers, and covers the primary models for market entry, how to negotiate, and what service offering you should look for in a Chinese publisher.

More information on the China Regulations & Business Report.

Niko has extensively covered news and updates on China’s regulations, you can read those articles here.