A Crackdown on Mobile Game Publishing in China: Here’s How Oniix Can Help

Aiweiwei's He Xie

27 Jun A Crackdown on Mobile Game Publishing in China: Here’s How Oniix Can Help

In June 2016, the Chinese government’s censorship body SAPPRFT announced some big changes for mobile game publishing in China. Starting July 1, 2016, every mobile game will require pre-approval in order to be published on the Chinese market.  While some Western tech outlets did cover this news, we went to the original source, SAPPRFT’s notice, to get a grasp on what this means for foreign developers hoping to publish a mobile game in China.


Previously, approval wasn’t necessary to publish individual games, as long as the game operator registered with the Ministry Culture of China within 30 days of publication. Although mobile games were supposed to provide an approval number granted by the Press and Publication Administration, most publishers ignored this process without any repercussions. The result? A disorganized and unaccountable distribution landscape in a country that demands strict control of creative and citizen-generated content.


The SAPPRFT has re-designed publication requirements, with different approval processes for three categories of games. All games must now be pre-approved before publishing on the Chinese mobile gaming market.

  1. Simple games

    1. Do not have any political, military, national, or religious content
    2. Game plot is very simple or game has no storyline
    3. Domestic game classified as match-3, endless runner, flying, chess, puzzle, sports, dance, music, or similar genre

TIME FOR APPROVAL: At least 20 weekdays

  1. Other domestic mobile games 


  1. Foreign mobile games

TIME FOR APPROVAL: Unspecified, but more than 3 months


As mentioned earlier, regulations are tightening because mobile gaming has exploded in China. As Talking Data reports, in 2012, China’s mobile gaming market was only worth $10 billion but is expected to surpass $24 billion in 2016. With this growth, the number of content providers has also skyrocketed, with more than 32,000 CPs active in the market.  Many developers want in on this opportunity and the market demands regulation, especially in a region as strictly governed as China.

Additionally, however, this move could reflect Chinese protectionism. The government almost always favors domestic players over foreigners, regardless of the wishes of consumers. By increasing barriers to entry for outsiders, China’s government could be trying to reserve a larger piece of the massive revenue pie that is the Chinese mobile gaming market for its citizens.

Lastly, China is cracking down on mobile gaming because the government demands strict control over media. This approval process is a way for SAPPRFT to oversee the content of every mobile game that is being distributed to Chinese citizens.


“More than 3 months?!?”, you might say. After this shocking shake-up, we have some good news for you. By publishing your mobile games with Oniix, a Chinese entity, your game can qualify as domestic product. That’s right, working with a publisher like Oniix will grant you a shorter approval period. A shorter approval period means that your game can be published on the Chinese market earlier than if you were trying to handle this on your own!

Additionally, our teams are familiar with Chinese regulation and approval practices. By working with those who understand the domestic market, the chances of game rejection are lower. Creating a partnership for mobile game publishing in China can increase approval rates.


However, these new regulations are a slow-down to market entry. The best advice we can give our partners in light of these new regulations is to act fast. We always say that a slow China approach enables pirated apps to break into the market. While time will only tell if the new approval process will prevent piracy, we can assume that approval will be granted to anyone willing to grease some palms. So, beating out potential pirates is still a top success factor in China.

Now, when a company decides to take action and prioritize the Chinese market, it will require at least 1 month of a waiting period, on top of the time necessary to localize and integrate the product so that it can compete on China’s app stores. Even more so than before, success in China will only be possible with a proactive approach- a China-specific launch should be orchestrated for the same time as a global release.

So, if you want to publish a game in China’s massive mobile gaming market, the sooner you get the ball rolling, the better. Contact us to get started with your Chinese market entry!


Image: Ai Weiwei’s “He Xie”, photo by Joseph Morris. “He xie”, which means river crab, is also a homonym for “harmonious” – Chinese Internet slang for censorship. 

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