SAPPRFT Reigns in Mobile Gaming Industry

On 24 May 2016, the SAPPRFT issued the Notice on the Administration of Mobile Game Publication Services, which will take effect 1 July 2016. The notice fleshes out the Provisions on Administration of Web Publishing Services 2016, which took effect on 10 March 2016, in relation to the publication of mobile games.

According to the notice, from 1 July 2016, mobile games can be published in China only after completing an approval procedure with the SAPPRFT, and a game publishing services unit must carry out the approval procedure before 1 October 2016 for any mobile game that is already on the market.

Mobile games that meet all of the following criteria may carry out a simplified approval procedure:

  • The game copyright is held by a domestic company or individual.
  • The game does not involve sensitive subjects such as politics, the military, ethnicity or religion and has no plot or has only a simple story line.
  • The game is of a casual genre.

Foreign owned mobile games and domestically held games that do not meet the above criteria are subject to a more complex approval procedure.

The notice requires a game publishing services unit to complete a new application procedure for new versions of mobile games, including updates and spin-offs, and to carry out an amendment procedure in relation to any changes to the game publishing services unit, the operating unit or the name of the game.

Market Reaction 

He Jun, Partner, Hankun Law Offices, Beijing

“The notice shows SAPPRFT’s determination to strictly regulate mobile games. Most provisions in the notice restate and specify previous regulations such as the Provisions on the Administration of Network Publishing Services. To ensure enforcement, the notice imposes on operating platforms and manufacturers of mobile terminals the responsibility to review mobile games licenses. Though no specific penalty rules are contained in the notice, pressure can be imposed on operating platforms and manufacturers of mobile terminals to encourage compliance.”

Action Items

General Counsel for companies involved in the production and distribution of mobile games in China will want to become familiar with the new requirements under the notice and ensure all games are properly licensed before being placed on the market after 1 July 2016. General Counsel for companies with products already being distributed in China will want to carry out the approval procedure before 1 October 2016.