In the United States, the App Store and Google Play store make their own rules about mobile game content. For example, in February 2015, Apple began rejecting games that had images of guns in the icons or promotional screenshots.
However, mobile games in China have an extra layer of regulations -- they must be approved by government agencies as well. Here’s three things you need to know about getting your mobile game approved by the Chinese government.
A mobile game in China must get a stamp of approval from the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC), the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) Provincial Level, GAPP National Level and the Ministry of Culture.
The approvals process timeline looks like this:
Approval from NCAC - 20 business daysApproval from GAPP Provincial Level - 7 business days Approval from GAPP National Level - 30 business days
If the GAPP requires any changes, the mobile game must be resubmitted after the changes are complete, which can take another 30 business days.
The Ministry of Culture must also approve the game. They accept applications year-round but only conduct reviews once every two months, so timing is everything.
All in all, it could take up to two months to get your app approved by the government, depending on the number of changes required.
The Chinese government has jurisdiction on what kind of content gets published. Lately there’s been more and more attention to banning gambling and gambling-like mechanics from mobile games.
Gambling is banned in China. Casino mobile games are not permitted but even games with gambling-like mechanics are subject to scrutiny. Lottery-style in-app purchases are seen as promoting gambling due to the unpredictable rewards. Because of this, mobile game developers in China must be careful in choosing a monetization strategy.
Puzzles & Dragons is an example of a game with lottery-style in-app purchases. In 2013, P&D reported earning $3.75M per day.
In 2013, the Ministry of Culture demanded that 27 mobile game publishing platforms and app-store operators, including Baidu App and Android Market, fix games that contained information advocating gambling or lottery-style in-app purchases. Games like Against War and Fantasy Monster were found to have lottery-style in-app purchases and were fined.
Other restrictions the Chinese government has in place for mobile apps are:
Anything with explicit content.Anything that violates China’s constitutionAnything 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.
Spellgun maintains a great relationship with the Chinese government, and is able to help with this confusing process. With its finger on the pulse of the Chinese mobile games industry, Spellgun keeps up with the latest gaming trends and government regulations that are affecting this rapidly changing industry.
Spellgun is a mobile game publisher focusing on bringing western mobile games like "Angry Birds" and "Plants vs. Zombies" to China. Our team consists of game industry veterans from China and the United states, including James Zhang, Founder and CEO of Concept Art House and Jason Park, former GM of Perfect World.
Concept Art House/Spellgun's founder and CEO, James Zhang, has a long history of speaking at GamesBeat and this year is no exception.
Concept Art House/Spellgun team hosted over 90 meetings, explored the expo floor, sat in on numerous talks at GDC 2017.