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China’s mobile games market is one of the largest in the world. Many foreign game developers look to make profits in this area. Suppose you are a New Zealand app or game developer looking to break into the Chinese market. If so, there is the potential for great success. However, Chinese law functions differently from New Zealand’s own. You will need to account for this fact in your app localisation. For mobile games, this is particularly apparent, as China has stricter laws than New Zealand regarding game content and distribution. For some guidance, this article will provide some general legal background for app development and explain whether you can publish your New Zealand game app in China.

Publishing in China

It is possible to publish your video game app as a foreign developer in China. However, there will be various legal and commercial hurdles along the way. For one thing, due to China’s various Internet blocking protocols, the Google Play Store is not available without a VPN in the country. Therefore, when planning what platforms you wish to publish your game app on, you need to consider what app stores are available in China.

Expanding further, there are many Android app stores within the country, and the Apple store also has a Chinese branch. However, it operates differently from the one in New Zealand to comply with Chinese law.

If you wish to distribute your app through a Chinese app platform, you will likely need to engage with a local Chinese distributor or register your own company in China. The country has very strict rules about what foreign tech companies can and cannot do, particularly in the gaming industry. So, you should receive professional advice to cater for the Chinese market.

Game Licensing in China

Additionally, China has specific laws for the kinds of video games that you can develop and distribute. In particular, if you want to sell your mobile game app in China, you need to apply for an official Game Registration Number (GRN) or an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). Chinese law requires this for identification purposes, and you need to meet specific requirements to receive such a number. These requirements cover various aspects but directly relate to your game content, where China has specific restrictions. In particular, these restrictions apply to:

  • the level of gore and graphic violence in your game;
  • the use of certain map and location-based software;
  • depictions of the Chinese Communist Party;
  • in-app purchases, especially regarding loot boxes and other game rewards;
  • Mahjong and poker games;
  • depictions of skeletons, corpses, zombies, and other similar concepts; and
  • descriptions of Chinese culture/history.

In general, you should expect greater supervision around the kind of content you can create. The Chinese government is also cracking down on rules around mobile games for children. If that is your target market, you need to pay particular attention to this area.

Meeting Privacy Requirements

Like New Zealand, China is also implementing stricter data privacy laws, and these will be particularly relevant for you if you wish to publish a game app in China. Just this year, the Chinese government announced their Personal Information Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China (PIPL), which introduces stricter privacy protection methods for organisations dealing with consumers’ personal information/personally identifiable information.

For instance, if you allow users to create accounts on your game, Chinese law requires that you collect their real names as authentication in this sign up process. As such, a person’s name qualifies as personal information, which means you will need to protect it according to that status.

However, if you operate as a business in New Zealand, you must comply with our own privacy laws. This compliance can make it easier to follow China’s privacy rules, as you should already have privacy mechanisms built into your app. Despite this, there are differences in our laws, so engage a privacy lawyer experienced with Chinese privacy law to ensure you do not invite legal liability.

Developing Appropriate Documentation

Leading on from that, distributing your mobile game in China will require legal paperwork to protect your interests. In particular, the following documents are essential, including:

  • an End-User Licence Agreement (EULA) or other similar licensing documents;
  • a terms and condition document; and
  • a privacy policy.

You will also need to provide a mechanism for users to complain and retain data about your users for legal reporting purposes. Additionally, whichever app store you decide to distribute through will likely have specific documentation requirements.

On top of this, all of your legal documentation will need to account for differences in international law, such as different trade mark registrations or differences in consumer law.

Key Takeaways

It is possible to publish your game app in China, and you may find great success in doing so. However, there can be a lot of red tape along the way. You will need specialised legal advice to ensure you meet the strict requirements Chinese law imposes on mobile games. If you would like more information or help with your mobile game in China, LegalVision’s data, privacy, and IT lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I publish my mobile game in China?

You can publish your mobile game as a foreign developer in China, but you will likely need a local distributor and specialised help to manage Chinese laws.

What is personal information?

Personal information, also called personally identifiable information, is generally data that can identify a living person. However, exact legal definitions can vary by country.

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