China releases censorship rules for console games, and there are a lot of them


We’ve known China was getting game consoles for some time now, but as we get closer to foreign consoles actually going on sale on Chinese shores, we’re starting to get additional info. The latest information comes from recent a Shanghai government release detailing the rules for foreign consoles aiming to be sold in China. It’s a lengthy document, but here are the highlights:

Foreign companies can produce and sell game consoles in China, although they do have to work with a local partner and operate out of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

All games will have to be approved by the “culture department in charge”. Happily, this refers to the local Shanghai government culture department, not the probably-more-strict national Ministry of Culture.

(See: Microsoft’s Xbox plans in China: cheap games, less censorship?)

The approval process for games will take no longer than 20 days. That’s a happy surprise, as getting approval for cultural products can sometimes take much longer.

Games that are not approved will be returned with the reason for their rejection clearly stated. That certainly suggests that rejected games may be easy to fix and resubmit. Content that won’t be allowed in games includes:

  • Gambling-related content or game features
  • Anything that violates China’s constitution
  • Anything that threatens China’s national unity, sovereignty, or territorial integrity.
  • Anything that harms the nation’s reputation, security, or interests.
  • Anything that instigates racial/ethnic hatred, or harms ethnic traditions and cultures.
  • Anything that violates China’s policy on religion by promoting cults or superstitions.
  • Anything that promotes or incites obscenity, drug use, violence, or gambling.
  • Anything that harms public ethics or China’s culture and traditions.
  • Anything that insults, slanders, or violates the rights of others.
  • Other content that violates the law

Obviously, many of these can be interpreted broadly or very selectively, but there’s reason to hope that the Shanghai local government will take a less broad approach than the Ministry of Culture might have. However, it seems highly unlikely that some of the West’s more controversial games (think Grand Theft Auto) have any chance of making the cut.

Game updates must also be submitted for the approval process. This probably will not apply to minor patches, but anything with new in-game content (DLC, for example) will need to be submitted and go through the same approval process, even if the game itself was already previously approved.

Console games must have a simplified Chinese version. This means that companies can’t simply re-sell Hong Kong and Taiwan versions, which use traditional Chinese characters.

It’s hard to know whether to be hopeful or pessimistic after reading through this release, as it will really depend on how the Shanghai government chooses to enforce these rules. But in a post about the new rules on Netease games included a reader poll that asked for readers’ opinions. More than half of the respondents so far selected “As soon as I saw the rules, I lost hope.” But as of this writing only a hundred or so have responded, so those results may not indicate anything.

(via Netease Games)


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