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Consoles may be going on sale in China, but few games likely to pass state censors

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Though China recently set regulations for the sale of video game consoles in its Shanghai free trade zone, ending a longstanding ban in that country, games themselves still must pass a long list of restrictions before government censors will allow them for sale.

The good news for would-be publishers is that the approval process is said to take no more than 20 days, though companies outside of China must work with a Chinese distributor or partner. The bad news is China's broad list of proscriptions could conceivably find something wrong with most any game published in the west.

According to this government release (as translated by Games In Asia), video games that feature any of the following are forbidden:

  • 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 [Chinese] law.

Additionally, notes Games In Asia, console games must be published with a simplified Chinese localization. In other words, publishers cannot resell games published for sale in Hong Kong or Taiwan, which use traditional Chinese characters. Game updates must also go through the same approval process — and that includes any new downloadable content, even if its parent game has already been approved.

In 2013, the Chinese government said it would end its 13-year-old ban ban on the production and sale of game consoles. Then in January, the government's Ministry of Culture said it was revising final guidelines for video game standards.These are those standards.

In March, two companies announced they were developing a native Chines game console, called the Fun Box.

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