China gaming crackdown: beloved video game journal ordered to suspend publication, rectify content

A 24-year-old video game journal told subscribers this week that it was suspending publication while rectifying content, as demanded by authorities

Readers bemoaned the suspension online of the much-loved publication, which has signalled a continuation of Beijing’s tough stance on the gaming industry

One of the largest gaming-focused magazines in China has suspended publication after regulators ordered it to make rectifications to its content, in another sign of Beijing’s enhanced regulation over the country’s video game industry.

Ultra Console Game, a popular 24-year-old gaming magazine, sent a text message to subscribers on Tuesday explaining that it would undergo “deep rectification” of its content, as demanded by regulatory authorities. Print publication has been suspended, it said, and no date has been specified for its return. However, an electronic edition will still be published through its app in mid-February, the publication said.

The magazine must “change its registration and postpone publication”, it said in response to an inquiry from the South China Morning Post on Thursday through its official account on the microblogging platform Weibo. It gave no further explanation of required rectification measures.

Founded in 1998 and sponsored by the state-backed Science and Technology Association in north-central Gansu province, Ultra Console Game has grown into a semi-monthly magazine with a circulation of more than 300,000, according to its website. It focuses on video game consoles and titles published for those platforms.

It is registered as a science journal and approved by the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA).

The suspension comes as Beijing has intensified scrutiny of the country’s gaming industry over the past several months. China is home to the world’s largest video games market, with an estimated revenue of US$49.3 billion in 2021.

A fresh video game crackdown that kicked off last August has clouded the industry’s growth prospects. That month, Beijing announced that gamers under the age of 18 would be limited to playing only between the hours of 8pm and 9pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and statutory holidays. It was a significant escalation in the government’s effort to fight video game addiction.

The NPPA, which is in charge of licensing video games in China, has not published a list of newly approved titles for sale in the country since the end of July. Hopes that the gaming freeze, the longest since 2018, would come to an end by the start of this year did not pan out.

After the journal’s announcement this week, readers expressed their disappointment on social media, where there was also an outpouring of nostalgia for what has become a staple of the Chinese gaming community over the past two decades.

“Ultra Console Game was my spiritual nourishment in high school, when I only had a Nokia mobile phone and could only read magazines to get gaming information,” a Weibo user posted. “Under the wave of new eras, no one can tell what will happen in the future.”

“Although I can search for gaming guides online at any time or join discussions on forums, these still feel very different from reading paper magazines,” another person wrote.

Author: Ann Cao, SCMP

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