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China imports 27 foreign video games as it reopens market to global titles

<i>Sheng Xiexiao/ICHPL Imaginechina/AP/File</i><br/>China has approved 27 foreign video games
Sheng Xiexiao
Sheng Xiexiao/ICHPL Imaginechina/AP/File
China has approved 27 foreign video games

By Laura He, CNN

China has approved 27 foreign video games, including titles to be released by Tencent, NetEase and Bilibili, as it gradually reopens the world’s largest mobile entertainment market to international titles.

It was the second batch of foreign games to be allowed to enter the Chinese market since December.

The latest titles include “Seven Deadly Sins: Grand Cross,” a popular global role-playing game from South Korea’s Netmarble, and “Merge Mansion,” a mobile merge game from Finland’s Metacore, according to a list published by the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) on Monday.

Tencent will distribute the two games in mainland China.

NetEasewill release “Audition: Everybody Party,” a Chinese version of the hit dancing game “Audition Online,” which was developed by South Korea’s T3 Entertainment.

Bilibili will publish the localized version of “Uma Musume: Pretty Derby,” a hugely popular franchise from Japan’s Cygames.

Other Chinese publishers on the list include XD, Yostar and iDreamSky Technology.

Among the 27 games, seven were made in Japan, followed by five from South Korea.

Online game stocks pulled higher in Asia on Tuesday.

In South Korea, shares in Netmarble Corp were up 7%. Devsisters Corp, whose hit game “Cookie Run” was also on the NPPA’s list, soared 15%. Nexon Games, whose popular “Blue Archives” and “MapleStory” were given the greenlight, surged 16%.

In Hong Kong, Bilibili was up as much as 9.1%. It last jumped 5.4%. XD advanced 2.8%. iDreamSky Technology was up 3.2%.

“We believe this implies a more supportive regulatory policy towards foreign titles that further support a healthier and normalized development of online gaming industry going forward,” said Citi analysts on Tuesday.

“We expect there could be two to three more imported batches in 2023, bringing total imported titles to 100 to 120.”

The NPPA’s move came two months after the iconic “World of Warcraft” franchise went offline in mainland China, after US publisher Blizzard and its Chinese distributor NetEase broke off talks to extend their 14-year partnership. That left many Chinese players devastated.

The regulator suspended licensing for all video games for nine months from July 2021 to April 2022, as the government launched a far-reaching tech crackdown and introduced stringent measures to cap playing times for minors in order to curb extreme cases of gaming addiction.

The NPPA lifted the freeze on domestic titles last April, in a sign that Beijing’s crackdown on the tech sector was easing. But foreign games were still unable to access the Chinese market until December, when the regulator finally approved 45 foreign titles, including “Pokémon Unite” by Nintendo and “Valorant” by Riot Games.

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