China freezes all game license approvals

RiotGames

Chinese tech stocks slid Wednesday in U.S. trade after Tencent reported a surprise 2% drop in second-quarter net profit, the first decline for the Chinese tech giant in almost 13 years. Analysts polled by S&P Global Market Intelligence had forecast net profit of 18.7 billion yuan and revenue of 77.8 billion.

Hong Kong-listed shares in Tencent, which derives much of its income from games, dropped more than three per cent on Wednesday and are down around 10 per cent since last week's announcement.

Industry executives have said many games in China, and not just those belonging to Tencent, have since March faced a hiatus in license approvals after China revamped its content regulatory body and divided its powerful State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television earlier this year.

Publishing a video game in China is no easy task, with strict requirements to ensure compliance with the country's laws, including its stringent stance on violence, depictions of its people and its growing concern on addiction due to loot boxes and their relation to gambling. The stock traded at HK$336 as of Wednesday's close, before the earnings were announced.

The strained relationship seemed to come to a head after Tencent apparently approached Riot about turning League of Legends into a mobile game, to which they declined. The majority of this is attributed to Fortnite: Battle Royale and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, as Tencent has been unable to market the desktop versions of either game, and PUBG's mobile variant, without approval.

The slumps followed the halt in sales Monday of Capcom fantasy "Monster Hunter: World" by Tencent subsidiary WeGame, on the orders of Chinese regulators.

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Tencent's mobile-game business reported a decline of 19 per cent to 17.6 billion yuan from the prior quarter, as it failed to get approval to charge fees for popular tactical tournament games and new game releases were delayed.

Regulators have yet to approve the introduction of in-game purchases that Tencent needs to generate revenue from.

Quoting unnamed sources, Bloomberg said approvals for online, console and mobile games have been stalled for months by regulatory personnel changes linked to President Xi Jinping's ongoing consolidation of power, leaving developers stranded.

Advertising revenue rose 39 per cent to 14.1 billion yuan in the second quarter, driven by ads on its WeChat Moments, a feature similar to Facebook's Timeline. With that ratio reportedly set to increase to 100 per cent from 52 per cent as of July, Tencent pledged to seek alternative ways to monetise its payment business.

"Monster Hunter: World" has sold more than eight million copies worldwide in five months, making it one of the hottest games this year.

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