China’s National Radio and Television Administration issued a notice on April 12, 2022 (Published April 15), called “Strengthening the Management of Game Live Streaming on Online Audio-Visual Platforms”. The notice states that game live streaming platforms, short video platforms and other types of audio-visual platforms are prohibited from broadcasting video games without having obtained a license (ISBN).
The notice contained 6 points
- It is strictly forbidden for any media platform to publish content for online games that are not approved: including game live streaming platforms, short video platforms, TV series, variety shows etc. It’s illegal to live stream it or record it, then post it.
- Increase game live streaming content management: all live content platforms, especially gaming platforms in terms of content settings, publicity, and interaction, should establish and improve information related to game live broadcast programs, including management for posting, comments, emergency response. Improve program monitoring and public opinion monitoring systems to create a healthy online environment.
- Increase guidance for streamers to avoid negative behaviors: platforms should guide streamers to have more civilized manners, have rational expressions, and to spend rationally to create a healthy online environment, abandon vulgar language and other undesirable things like money worshiping and fan circles.
- It is strictly forbidden to use online broadcasting platforms to give voice to people who break the law: online platforms must heavily regulate and control the selection of guests and streamers, insist on political correctness, good morality, artistic level, use social evaluation as a standard. Eliminate those with incorrect political position, violating laws and regulations, or who violate public order.
- Urge online live broadcast platforms to implement youth protections for minors: platforms need to carry out anti-addiction mechanisms by ensuring that “youth mode” has practical effects. Real name identification requirements should be implemented to restrict time and spend for minors.
- Implement classification reporting systems: Live game broadcast information should be submitted to the radio and TV administration department. Online media platforms (including for domestic and overseas individuals or organizational accounts) broadcasting overseas game content or competitions should get approval before the activities can be carried out.
Niko’s regulations monitoring shows that this policy goes back to 2016 but it has not been enforced since then. Elden Ring was a hit on Chinese game live streaming platforms reaching 17.1 million cumulative daily average viewers based on data from Niko’s China Games Streaming Tracker, despite not having an ISBN. If enforced, the policy would prevent games without ISBNs, such as Elden Ring, from being streamed on game live streaming platforms.
Niko Partners notes that games have been banned from live streaming platforms in the past, usually in the form of an announcement by the Ministry of Culture (MOC). The MOC has announced lists of games that are banned from obtaining a license, being sold, or broadcast in China due to political reasons, and these games have been fully removed from game live streaming platforms before. Nearly 100 games, including titles such as Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher 3 and Plague Inc have been named by the MoC as banned games and are not allowed on game live streaming sites.
Stronger enforcement of existing policies and a crackdown on loopholes within China’s games industry has been underway in recent months, and this announcement by the NRTA aims to enforce compliance with prior regulations.