China bans livestreams of unapproved videogames

by John Stapel

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(Image credit: Future)

In March, the Chinese government announced plans to expand its restrictions on online gaming for minors to include livestreaming and social media. At the time, the government was seeking public feedback on a draft document of proposed changes, but it appears that some aspects of the crackdown are now being adopted: A Reuters report says the country's National Radio and Television Administration has banned livestreams of unauthorized videogames.

The new regulation [Google translated] applies to videogames that have not been approved for publication in China, according to the report, as well as streams of games and esports competitions from outside of China. Along with imposing limits on game content that can be streamed on Chinese platforms, it also calls on streamers to avoid "traffic-oriented" aesthetics and other "undesirable" behavior, and to interact with viewers in a "civilized and healthy" online environment.

The new restrictions are part of China's ongoing efforts to battle perceived gaming and online addiction among minors, a point explicitly stated in the first paragraph of the new guidelines: "Issues such as online live broadcast chaos and teenagers' addiction to games have attracted widespread attention in the society, and it is urgent to take effective measures to strictly regulate them."

One of the driving factors behind the change is that while videogames need official approval to be published in China, unapproved games are often promoted on platforms like Huya, DouYu, and Bilibili. One of them, unsurprisingly, is Elden Ring, which analyst Daniel Ahmad of Niko Partners said was a big hit among livestream viewers despite not being approved for publication.

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"Earlier this year, Elden Ring was a hit on Chinese game live streaming platforms reaching 17.1 million cumulative daily average viewers, despite not having a license," Ahmad said.

Elden Ring was a hit on Chinese game live streaming platforms reaching 17.1m cumulative daily average viewers in its first week. But it's not approved for sale there (People still find ways to buy it ofc).If the below is fully enforced, Elden Ring couldn't be streamed at all. https://t.co/roKxkQwatIApril 15, 2022

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The new regulations come just one day after Chinese gaming conglomerate Tencent announced that it will take steps to block access to unapproved foreign games on its platforms. Ironically, both moves come just days after Chinese authorities issued the first approvals for new videogames in almost a year.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.