The National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) of the PRC, the regulatory body governing China’s video games market, announced publishing licenses (ISBN) for 43 imported (foreign) games on June 28, 2021. All games to be published in mainland China must first be granted an ISBN.
The June 28 batch is a relief to many foreign game developers, as the previous batch of import titles had been on February 21, so this was a long 4 months for many to wait. It’s welcome news that 43 games are in this batch. The 43 games come from mobile, PC and console platforms: 30 mobile, 6 PC, 4 Switch, 2 PlayStation and 1 multiplatform title for PC and PlayStation.
This article provides the high-level summary information. For companies who need more data and context, we suggest Niko’s China Games Market Monthly Database, which provides new data monthly regarding ISBNs, financial transactions, games rankings, games in beta, and more. We’ve incuded the list of games below but the full list including data on title, platform, genre, Chinese operator, developer / IP holder, and region of origin can be found in our database. Developers would also benefit from Niko’s China Games Regulations & Business Report, as all games must adhere to the regulations of the PRC prior to launch.
Of utmost importance is that all games on all platforms must obtain an ISBN prior to launch. So far we observe that games that do not require payment nor offer in-app purchases have been able to launch without an ISBN, however officially all games must apply to be granted one.
The following titles were approved:
- 60 Seconds! Reatomized
- Almighty Arena
- Bella Villa
- Black Desert Mobile
- Chinese Paladin:Sword and Fairy VII
- Chuliuxiang Qunxialu
- Doraemon Story Of Seasons
- DRAGON QUEST The Adventure of Dai: A Hero’s Bonds
- Dynasty Warriors: Unleashed
- Fishing Duel
- Gospel Of Satan
- Hay Day
- Hungry Hearts Diner: A Tale of Star-Crossed Souls
- Infinitode 2
- Kingdom Rush Vengeance
- LOL Esports Manager
- Lost Word
- Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
- MARVEL Duel
- Melbits™ World
- Merge Dragons
- Mini Metro
- Mobile Royale
- Rabbids: Adventure Party
- Rento Fortune: Online
- Sackboy: A Big Adventure
- Sonic at the Tokyo Olympics 2020
- Steambirds Alliance
- Stick Fight: The Game
- Tanke Jingying
- Tennis Clash
- Tennis World Tour
- That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
- The Croods 2
- Tom Clancys The Division 2
- World Flipper
- Xuan-Yuan Sword VII
- Japan maintains its spot as the #1 region of origin of licensed imported games, with 8 (19%) of titles approved in this batch. This is a decline from 45.5% in the February batch and 40% of all licenses for import games in 2020. The United States had 6 titles, and France had 5.
- South Korean developers had 3 games, which is a positive sign given there was an unofficial freeze on Korean game approvals between March 2017 and February 2020 due to political tension. The situation has improved over time and 7 ISBNs were granted to Korean games between March 2020 and the latest batch.
- As a publisher, Tencent came out strong with 5 games granted ISBNs including 3 mobile games, 2 for Switch and 1 PC game. NetEase was a close second with 4 titles this batch including 3 mobile games and 1 PC game. ByteDance, which has become a notable company in China’s video game market, had 1 game in this batch: Sonic at the Olympic Games 2020 (mobile).
- Noteworthy mobile games include Hay Day from Supercell, which will be published by Tencent. Its previous title, Brawl Stars, earned more in China during its first week than it did in the rest of the world, according to Sensor Tower. League of Legends Esports Manager from Riot Games was also approved and will be published by Tencent. The simulation game will be the second mobile game in the League of Legends franchise to launch in China, with the first being Wild Rift.
- Marvel Duel, a card strategy game developed by NetEase and based on the Marvel license, was approved. NetEase and Marvel confirmed in 2019 that the two companies would collaborate to launch new mobile game projects. Marvel Super War, a MOBA game, has already launched outside China and was recently approved for launch in China. Merge Dragons from Zynga, Black Desert Mobile from Pearl Abyss, Dynasty Warriors Unleashed from Nexon, Evoland 2 from Shiro Games and Mobile Royale from IGG are other notable mobile games in this batch.
- Noteworthy PC games approved in this batch include Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 from Ubisoft, which will be published by Tencent. Tencent acquired a 5% stake in Ubisoft during 2018. Ubisoft is also working on a mobile game based on The Division, which Tencent will publish in China. Chinese Paladin 7, which is the latest entry in the Legend of Sword and Fairy series from Softstar, was also approved. It held a demo earlier this year and will release on Steam and Cube Game later this year. A wave of nostalgia washes over Niko because the Sword and Fairy series goes back practically as long as the 19 years that we have covered the Chinese market.
- Sackboy: A Big Adventure was approved in this batch and is the first licensed game for the PlayStation 5, which launched in China in May 2021. The grey market remains robust for console games so even though this is the first PS5 title with an ISBN, it is not the first title played on PS5 in China.
- There were 4 games approved for the Nintendo Switch, two of which are developed by Ubisoft. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, which combines Nintendo’s IP with Ubisoft’s own Rabbids franchise and Rabbids: Adventure Party, a party game with Rabbids characters. The latter is developed by Ubisoft Chengdu and utilizes aspects from the Journey to the West story to create a familiar title for Chinese players. The game is only confirmed for the China market and is aimed at new Switch players.