China's video game regulator hasn't approved any new titles since July 2021

Reports say it's led to a wave of developer closures.

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BEIJING, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 11: People play online video games in a game arcade on September 11, 2021 in Beijing, China. Commencing at the end of August, China has announced strict measures to cut online gaming time for children under 18 years of age to a maximum of three hours a week during designated times, in an attempt to curb addiction. (Photo by Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images)
Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images

China’s not-so subtle war against video games has reportedly caused a number of domestic publishers to close their doors. The SCMP says that the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) has not issued a new license to a game developer since July 2021. And that, as a consequence, a number of local firms have been forced to exit the business, while some of the larger players are looking to move operations overseas. It’s not clear if the NPPA’s inaction is the direct cause of these closures, especially given the broader debt crisis in China, but there’s a belief that something is up.

The NPPA has reportedly been tight-lipped about why it’s suddenly decided to stop issuing licenses, but you can likely guess why. China spent much of 2021 amplifying its already fierce criticism of video games, with a key state-owned news outlet describing them as “spiritual opium” in the summer. At the end of August 2021, limits on how long minors could play some titles was slashed to just three hours a week. And given China’s repeated attacks on the biggest players in its tech sector, it seems like we shouldn’t get our hopes up for the NPPA to turn the faucet back on any time soon.

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