Since the end of July, no new online game can be approved for release in China. This is the longest “freeze” since 2018 — then the issuance of licenses was stopped for nine months. The current situation has already forced some developers to buy licenses on the black market.

This is reported by the South China Morning Post business portal with reference to the National Press and Publications Administration (NPPA). It is responsible for issuing licenses in China. Usually, in the middle or end of each month, the NPPA publishes a list with games that have received permission for release this time. But the department has not done this for more than three months.

Previously, local gaming companies expected that the “freeze” would end in October after the celebration of the Day of the Formation of the People’s Republic of China — the country’s main national holiday — but this did not happen.

The head of one of the studios suggested that even when the NPPA starts issuing licenses again, only a few developers will receive them at first. Despite the fact that usually the NPPA approves 80-100 titles. For example, the last time, in July, she gave permission for the publication of 87 projects.

The delay in licenses has already led to the fact that some developers have begun to violate Chinese law. They buy previously issued licenses from other developers with similar games. If the company is caught doing this, it faces a fine that can be ten times its annual income.

The NPPA itself does not comment on the situation in any way.

According to Matthew Kanterman, senior analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, the suspension is related to the launch of stricter licensing requirements.

“Perhaps the regulatory authorities are thereby forcing developers to comply with the new rules. Before approving new games, they want to make sure that the required mechanics are already implemented. And this can explain the current delay,” Kanterman said.

The fact that the authorities are preparing to tighten licensing rules became known in early October from a note that the regulator sent to Chinese developers. According to her, now censors will be unhappy if games begin to rewrite history, talk about LGBT topics, and also allow gamers to make a choice between good and evil.

All this is happening against the background of the increasing control of the Chinese authorities over the games. For example, since September, Chinese underage gamers are prohibited from spending more than three hours a week on online games (an hour on Friday, Saturday and Sunday).