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China releases censorship rules for console games, and there are a lot of them

China releases censorship rules for console games, and there are a lot of them

| April 22, 2014


We’ve known China was getting game consoles for some time now, but as we get closer to foreign consoles actually going on sale on Chinese shores, we’re starting to get additional info. The latest information comes from recent a Shanghai government release detailing the rules for foreign consoles aiming to be sold in China. It’s a lengthy document, but here are the highlights:

Foreign companies can produce and sell game consoles in China, although they do have to work with a local partner and operate out of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

All games will have to be approved by the “culture department in charge”. Happily, this refers to the local Shanghai government culture department, not the probably-more-strict national Ministry of Culture.

(See: Microsoft’s Xbox plans in China: cheap games, less censorship?)

The approval process for games will take no longer than 20 days. That’s a happy surprise, as getting approval for cultural products can sometimes take much longer.

Games that are not approved will be returned with the reason for their rejection clearly stated. That certainly suggests that rejected games may be easy to fix and resubmit. Content that won’t be allowed in games includes:

  • Gambling-related content or game features
  • Anything that violates China’s constitution
  • Anything 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.
  • Anything that promotes or incites obscenity, drug use, violence, or gambling.
  • Anything that harms public ethics or China’s culture and traditions.
  • Anything that insults, slanders, or violates the rights of others.
  • Other content that violates the law

Obviously, many of these can be interpreted broadly or very selectively, but there’s reason to hope that the Shanghai local government will take a less broad approach than the Ministry of Culture might have. However, it seems highly unlikely that some of the West’s more controversial games (think Grand Theft Auto) have any chance of making the cut.

Game updates must also be submitted for the approval process. This probably will not apply to minor patches, but anything with new in-game content (DLC, for example) will need to be submitted and go through the same approval process, even if the game itself was already previously approved.

Console games must have a simplified Chinese version. This means that companies can’t simply re-sell Hong Kong and Taiwan versions, which use traditional Chinese characters.

It’s hard to know whether to be hopeful or pessimistic after reading through this release, as it will really depend on how the Shanghai government chooses to enforce these rules. But in a post about the new rules on Netease games included a reader poll that asked for readers’ opinions. More than half of the respondents so far selected “As soon as I saw the rules, I lost hope.” But as of this writing only a hundred or so have responded, so those results may not indicate anything.

(via Netease Games)

  • Microsoft’s Xbox One plans in China: cheap games, less censorship?


A recent BesTV earnings call has revealed new information about Microsoft's Xbox joint venture in China and its plans for the country.



  1. James B.

    The law is meant to be broad enough to censor whatever they want when they want, so they keep the right to shutdown the whole thing at any moment they wish. Did you expect otherwise? haha.

  2. Leon

    Probably still better than OFLC Australia.

  3. Leon

    One thing for sure though, China won’t ban GTA, it’s one of the top selling games of the world ! China wouldn’t want to miss that chance.

  4. Andreas K

    @Leon, not every politician can be bought and sold.

  5. The PS4 and XB1 will sell millions of consoles in China now, great for the Chinese games industry – Think of those millions millions of Chinese mobile gamers who fed up with rubbish cheap sahllow ‘free to play’ rubbish touch control mobiles games who are hungry for proper next gen console gaming with amazing graphics on a big screen TV and a proper controller!

  6. Arnold Stallone

    No violence : 50% of games: fps games
    No drugs, sex: mgs4 snake can’t smoke, watch his porn magazine
    No offenses: Nathan drake enemies can no longer say ‘fuck you’
    Etc etc

    Basically, only angry birds games will have a chance to be approved. but hey, that’s violence against animals, birds: forbidden

    Uncharted 2… in the Tibet level…the game has no chinese flags: forbidden

    What about a game where we control a Tibetan man, and we must fight against chinese rapists, killers, etc, to try to live freely in peace. Forbidden ?

    Or a game where a guy must avoid being smashed by communist tanks? Forbidden?

    Or a game where the chinese government support, promote and send packs of 100 chinese people and a few tons of cheap shit ,and they send all that to different countries,so they invade markets with cheap clothes, cheap shitty things they sell 1$ per kilo, and they open dirty restaurants where they prepare nems and shrimp raviolis on the floor, where the 20 workers are all ‘cousins’, ‘brothers and sisters’, ‘ oncles’, dad and mom’, and 10 people sleep in the same tiny bedroom, and then the chinese government send them another pack of 20 ‘cousins and brothers’ to work there, for free, and they must give their passports to their ‘owners’, or ‘master chief’, to avoid running away.
    And in these game, you play a fed agent that must stop the slavery and human traffic to export the Chinese ‘culture’ to 100% of the world.
    Will this game be forbidden or accepted?

  7. This makes me ANGRY!

    Gamers WORLDWIDE should stand up for gamers rights in China!

    Is there any way to help Chinese gamers,”and gamers in any nation?” I won’t grab my proverbial pitchfork and torch yet, because we need to figure out peaceful, level headed solutions to this.

    This is downright depressing, and wrong.

  8. This means shit all. You can still buy any game you want, any console you want at any computer mall in Shanghai. From any region.

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