The decision is in line with Chinese regulatory measures, although Tencent also benefits.
Media behemoth Tencent has announced that it will block Chinese gamers from playing international games from May 2022, Reuters says in a new report. The change is part of the company’s next round of updates to Tencent’s speed-boosting apps, which Chinese gamers previously used to boost their internet speed and access international and non-government-sanctioned games.
While Tencent has made no official statement explaining the reason for its decision, Reuters assumes the block is designed to comply with increasing government regulation and surveillance of China’s gaming industry. NetEase, Tencent’s biggest competitor, has its own game booster appsbut has not yet restricted which games users can access through them.
Reuters speculates that the decision to block access to foreign games is part of Tencent’s compliance with increased regulatory pressure. Since mid-2021, Chinese regulators have issued strict new guidelines determining what topics media, including video games, can portray, guidelines prohibiting LGBTQ+ characters and relationships, and topics that may be deemed unpatriotic or anti-social. These guidelines naturally don’t apply to non-Chinese games, so Tencent’s speed booster updates may be a way to avoid potential regulatory action since the media giant was aware of how gamers were using the app.
However, it may also be an attempt to boost the domestic gaming market. Chinese developers are gearing up to ramp up production. Just days before Tencent announced its decision, the General Press and Public Administration, China’s regulatory body that approves video games, issued 45 new licenses allowing studios to move forward with their projects, after nearly a year of approval freezes.
In 2021, analyst firm Nico Partners reported that Chinese developers were looking to increase their production and the quality of their games, in part to compete with international titles on the world stage. Tencent’s move means they won’t have to compete with those unsanctioned international games at home. Niko Partners predicts that several hundred games will be approved and published by 2022 alone, representing a significant number of projects that studios and their publishers need to be successful.
The move is also in line with recent moves by Tencent to stay on good terms with Chinese regulatory agencies, preserving its place in the country’s media landscape while seeking other avenues of growth outside of its stricter guidelines. In 2021, for example, the Market Regulation Administration blocked Tencent’s acquisition efforts in China. Tencent has, however, bought or acquired substantial shares in a number of international studios, giving it a bigger presence outside of China and opening up the Chinese market to its partners.
Blocking unfettered access to international games means Tencent gets the best of both worlds: an ongoing positive relationship with the Chinese government and a large player market with fewer ways to access games than Tencent itself creates. nor publish.
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