Publishing an iOS or Android mobile game in China is a venture that demands a strategic approach beyond the routine steps of uploading to the Apple App Store or Google Play. In China, the absence of Google Play necessitates navigating a diverse ecosystem comprising 400+ android app stores, each with its distinct submission protocol.
However, gaining entry into this lucrative market involves more than just store submissions. Before your game can see the light of day, it must secure a unique “game license” through a rigorous government approval process—a stage that might appear intimidating to those unfamiliar with the landscape. Thankfully, there are entities like ours that specialize in simplifying this procedure.
Chinese regulations mandate that all games, ranging from PC and mobile to HTML5 and Mini-games within other apps like WeChat and Douyin, must obtain this licensing. As of now, the government’s focal point seems to be on games that are monetized through either upfront payments or in-app purchases.
Despite the intricacies, the potential gains make the journey worthwhile. China presents an immense market, boasting a staggering $90 billion in revenue with a player base of over 668 million enthusiasts. In this article, we provide a concise guide on how you can tap into this expansive market.
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Fulfilling the Basic Business Prerequisites:
1. Establish a Chinese Corporation or Business Entity
The establishment of a Chinese corporation or business entity is a fundamental requirement. Foreign and foreign-invested companies are legally prohibited from directly publishing or operating online PC or mobile games in China, rendering them ineligible for a game license.
However, exceptions exist, with two U.S. publishers—Apple’s App Store and Steam—being rare cases allowed to operate in China without a Chinese partner.
Yet, for foreign companies to distribute their games in China and align with Chinese law, they must seek a Chinese partner to register and publish the game on their behalf. The partner will handle marketing and distribution, typically receiving a share of profits after the app store’s cut. Despite this practice, it remains a common choice for foreign companies seeking access to China’s vast and highly profitable market.
Note: If you partner with 21YunBox, you can benefit from a more favorable profit-sharing arrangement compared to most Chinese publishing partners. Contact us to learn more about our offerings.
2. Obtain a Software Copyright Certificate (SCC) Filing
An SCC serves as evidence of registered Chinese copyright for any software. Both domestic and foreign entities, whether individuals or companies, can apply for one. Nevertheless, when it comes to games, only a Chinese corporation, business entity, or individual may publish a game in China.
During the submission process, both the Apple App Store and all independent Android app stores will request a valid SCC number, although presently the Apple App Store does not validate submitted SCCs.
3. Attain a Game Registration Number (GRN / ISBN)
Administered by China’s National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA, 国家新闻出版署), the GRN or ISBN is essential once your game has successfully navigated the content approval process. This number, a 13-digit International Standard Book Number (ISBN), also referred to as the “game approval number” by Apple, is crucial for this purpose.
Game Content Requirements & Limitations
To enable revenue generation, your game must gain approval from the NPPA, adhering to a detailed list of content restrictions. Overseas game developers and publishers often find themselves modifying their games to comply with the requirements set by Chinese censors.
In 2019, several additional clarifications were issued alongside a new submission process:
1. Elimination of Mahjong or Poker Games
For the time being, the market is flooded with these games, often associated with gambling and hence not allowed.
2. Restrictions on Depicting Corpses, Skeletons, Zombies, Vampires, and Blood
Characters or players should disappear upon death, and any depiction of blood, regardless of color, is prohibited.
3. Prohibition of Collecting Concubines and Wives
This restriction applies even in historically accurate contexts, such as feudal China games.
4. Emphasizing Cultural Sensitivity
In a bid to enhance game quality, the government encourages developers to reflect China’s core social values and traditional history and culture in their games. Games should impart “correct” information on politics, law, and history, as interpreted by the authorizing agency.
Note: Leveraging 21YunBox Compliance Suite ensures compliance with content guidelines. We offer APIs to help you audit your content, ensuring accurate information display and masking any “incorrect” information. Contact us to explore our compliance solutions.
5. Implement a Security Assessment Form
In adherence to the Chinese government’s restrictions on speech that may “disrupt public order,” games, while not typical platforms for political activism, require a structured process for reporting and handling potential violations in any social aspects where players can communicate. A Security Assessment Form must be on file with the appropriate government agency, detailing your system and process.
1. Real Name Verification
In compliance with Chinese regulations, it is mandatory for users to register accounts with their real names, even if they can create onscreen usernames. Typically, this is achieved by verifying the user’s phone number and linking it to their account. Many apps implement this by sending a temporary login code via text message that expires within 15 minutes.
Note: Utilizing the 21YunBox Compliance Suite ensures compliance with Real Name Verification. We offer APIs that facilitate seamless integration of Temporary Token Login and Sign-up into your apps, minimizing integration effort. Contact us to explore our compliance solutions.
2. Anti-Addiction Plan and Measures
China places significant emphasis on addressing youth gaming addiction and myopia since 2008. If your game has a complex online login component, measures need to be in place to restrict playtime, duration, and manner for users under 18, unless it’s a simple game like chess or a puzzle/matching game.
3. Working Within The Great Firewall of China
Due to restrictions and performance issues with popular cloud services and dependencies like AWS, Google Cloud, and Firebase in China, it’s crucial to use services that function effectively within the country. Our Acceleration solutions bridge this gap, ensuring smooth integration and data synchronization.
To publish your game in China, thorough localization is essential. This includes translating all text into Mandarin Chinese (simplified) and recording voiceovers in Mandarin Chinese. Additionally, modifying artwork with English text and adapting character designs, stories, and maps to align with the local culture is crucial.
Various localized SDKs must be integrated to meet technical, content, and app store requirements.
App Stores In China
1. Third-Party Android App Stores
Each independent Android app store in China has its focus, with some specifically dedicated to games. Tailoring your game to the right store can enhance visibility and success. However, since integrating the store’s SDK requires a separate version for each, targeting the most promising stores minimizes maintenance efforts.
Keep in mind that Google services aren’t accessible in China, making publishing on Google Play ineffective for reaching Mainland Chinese consumers.
2. Apple App Store In China
Apple operates a distinct Apple App Store in China. Publishing your iOS game in China necessitates direct submission to this version via Apple’s developer console. The submission process is relatively straightforward, with an English interface.
3. Mobile Game Revenue Share Models In China
Chinese Android app stores typically claim a 50% share of all revenues, including purchases and ads due to mandatory SDK integrations. The Apple App Store, on the other hand, takes a 30% revenue share. Additionally, Chinese publishing partners usually retain around 70% of the remaining amount.
Despite higher fees and revenue shares, the vast Chinese market and number of Daily Active Users (DAUs) present immense profit potential for moderately popular games.
Publishing and Approval Process
1. Submission to NPPA
To initiate the licensing approval process for your game, you will need to compile and submit the following documents to the NPPA:
Basic Information about the Game: This includes details such as the game’s name, description, developer, and publisher.
Publisher’s Business License
ICP Certificate (if required)
Printed Screenshots: Provide a minimum of 10 color pictures showcasing the core content and basic appearance of the game. Include at least one picture of the main menu displaying the game name.
Full Text of the Game: Submit the complete Chinese text that appears in the game. This encompasses system prompts, NPC dialogues, mission story descriptions, inventory item names, and more. Ensure it is provided in electronic form.
Explanation of the Game’s Anti-Addiction Features: Detail how the game’s anti-addiction features function. If the game doesn’t require such features, provide a rationale for their absence.
Administrator Accounts: Furnish adult accounts categorized into high, medium, and low access levels. These will be used to assess the game’s anti-addiction features and review content.
Game Installation Package: This can be submitted physically, involving three copies on three CDs or a USB flash disk. Alternatively, provide a link for downloading the game installation package.
Demo CD-ROM: Include a CD (3 copies) featuring a game demo video lasting at least 10 minutes. The video should showcase the game’s health warning/advice screen, game title screen, main interface and menu, all character images, accessible scenes, and systems that players can experience. For games with combat systems, ensure the actual combat demo is at least 2 minutes long. If an anti-addiction system is integrated, demonstrate anti-addiction tips and benefits at key time points.
2. Approval Times
Officially states 80+ days by NPPA. However, Approval times vary based on game complexity, ranging from simple games (less than a month) to more intricate foreign games (6-8+ months). Multiple rounds of feedback, adjustments, and re-reviews might be necessary.
Once approved, you’ll receive a Game Registration Number (GRN), signifying approval for distribution in China. This number is required for submission to both the Chinese Apple App Store and any Chinese Android app stores.
3. Publish Strategically
Strategically publishing your game involves individual submissions to each app store, ensuring alignment with their specific requirements and focus. Prioritize the top 5 Android app stores in China and the Chinese Apple App Store for iOS versions.
Note that the Apple App Store now requires a valid game registration approval number (GRN / ISBN) as of February 24, 2020.
The 21YunBox Advantage
Publishing your mobile game in China necessitates a reliable Chinese partner. 21YunBox stands as a trusted app and game publisher in the Chinese app market, offering generous revenue-sharing models that benefit developers, regardless of their game’s scale. Leveraging our expertise, your game can achieve significant success in the expansive Chinese market.
Contact our English-speaking team today to simplify this challenging process and reap the rewards.
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