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China tightens online game laws and prohibits foreign investment

Web games to meet criteria and obtain licence before release is authorised

China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) has issued a notice that states online games should be pre-approved and attain an Internet Publishing Licence before they can be released.

The notice also says that foreign game companies will be prohibited from investing in China-based online game operators as sole owners, joint venture partners or cooperative partners. They won't be allowed to control, or be involved, in domestic gaming operations through joint networks for user registration, account supervision or game card systems.

Under the new ruling, domestic organisations and individuals won't be allowed to operate an online game without undergoing the GAPP pre-approval, reports China CSR. The rules also apply to online games intended for export, which will be required to meet approval guidelines first.

200 online games were recently inspected by GAPP and, subsequently, three of the sites were found to be publishing imported online games without government approval, 26 were found to have added 'unhealthy content' - such as violence and sex - after approval, nine failed to conform to the publishing procedure, and seven didn't have a fatigue testing system.

The latest government crack down follows a numbers of rulings introduced in recent years, including three hour play restrictions intended to reduce cases of game addiction, brought in in 2007 and a recent tightening of restrictions applied to imported games designed to "avoid the excessive penetration of foreign culture among Chinese youth".