China Approves Foreign Video Games After More Than A Year-Long Ban

China relaxes its strict regulation on foreign video games after approving 30 titles this week.
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The latest Game of Thrones video game was among those approved by China regulators. Screenshot from Gtarcade website

If you’ve been playing Apex Legends one of the biggest online video games under the “Battle Royale” category right now—in any of the servers in Asia, there’s a pretty big chance you’ve heard or read a message in Chinese within the game. It’s a recurring string of gibberish if you don’t know the language. And it’s annoying. You blink, and the next thing you see is an enemy player gunning you down.

A little snooping reveals that the messages are advertisements for cheats you can use in the game, including tool-assisted “aimbots” that guarantee an easy death for those who try to play the game fairly. Both the cheats and the messages are a common sight in all Asian servers. Cheaters are rampant, and the game is barely playable in its current state. But here’s the thing: the community nor the publishers of Apex Legends can’t do much about it, because it hasn’t been officially released in China. Nor have many other hugely popular games… at least not yet.

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In China, video game companies are required to submit their products for review to authorities before they can be sold domestically. But Apex Legends and other popular games like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds might finally get an official release in China after the State Administration of Press and Publications (SAPP) approved 30 foreign video games on Tuesday, April 2. While those favorites weren't on the list, among the approved games were Game of Thrones: Winter is Coming, which is in beta testing, and The Room Three.

Before the announcement on Tuesday, all of the games that have been approved were under a Chinese IP. Video game companies like Tencent, which owns the rights to distribute the mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in China, have to patiently wait for the country’s regulators approval. The recent announcement is the first time online video games from a foreign IP have been approved after more than a year. Thousands of video games are still currently pending approval from the SAPP.

While China arguably has the biggest video game market in the world by revenue, its relationship with video games is complicated, citing video game addiction and myopia among the youth as to why there are strict regulations in place.

But these regulations haven’t stopped players from China from getting access to the games they want to play, as Apex Legends shows. It’s a mess for everyone really. Well at least for everyone who wants to play nice.