China just lifted its ban on new video games after nearly a year of keeping games from getting released. Its regulatory arm approved 80 new games today, as first reported by Reuters. But curiously enough, none of them are from the country’s biggest gaming company, Tencent.
Tencent is best known as the company that owns WeChat, China’s pervasive app that can make payments, host mini-apps, and connect people through messages and emojis. But its main source of revenue is video games it owns like Arena of Valor (also known as Honor of Kings), League of Legends, and ones that it’s invested heavily in such as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite. But as China tightened its video game rules this year and Tencent has struggled to adapt, the company has turned its sights on the international market instead, especially as Fortnite reportedly raked in $3 billion in profits this year.
Earlier this week, the official China Securities Journal reported that an initial handful of games had been approved, citing the deputy director of the Communist Party’s propaganda unit. Tencent was quick to respond to the good news, saying in a statement spotted by Bloomberg, “This is decidedly inspiring news for the entire industry.”
The costly ban on an industry that made over $30 billion this year happened quickly and has been strictly enforced. Back in March, China swiftly stopped approving new video game releases, causing Tencent’s profits to dip for the first time in a decade, as titles it was developing could not make it to the public’s hands. And in August, Beijing officially cemented the ban just days after President Xi Jinping gave a speech about myopia and authorities recommended curbing video games as one of the solutions. In November, Tencent began to require users to prove their ages and identities in order to more strictly enforce curfews on young gamers.
Although today’s news means that video games are back in business, the system for getting approval for new titles still remains opaque. Large companies like Tencent that have suffered losses likely need to rely on back-up plans.