China: China Ministry Of Culture Released New Regulation On Online Game Operation

Last Updated: 24 March 2017
Article by Tracey Tang
Most Read Contributor in China, October 2017

2016 is certainly an eventful year for the regulatory regime of online games in China, signified by the issuances of various milestone legislations. On December 5, 2016, the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China ("MOC") released the Notice on Regulating Online Game Operation and Strengthening Concurrent and Ex-Post Supervision ("Notice") as well as its official interpretations. The two major regulatory bodies in charge of online game publishing and operation in China, the MOC and State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television ("SAPPRFT"), may not act in concert to enact key legislations one after another in 2016. However, they obviously are after the same goal—to further reinforce their administration and supervision over online game market.

The Notice is intended to restate and introduce a series of important regulatory requirements governing online game operation in China, to be implemented from May 1, 2017, when the Notice takes effect.

Clarifications on Online Game Operation and Operators

Under the Notice, online game operation is defined as activities providing online gaming products and services to the public by making available user registration system or downloadable games in order to benefit by various means including charging the users, e-commerce, advertising, sponsorship and etc. To prevent attempts to bypass the governmental administration, the Notice specifically mentions that technical testings of online games that make user registration, fee collection, log-in or client software available to the public shall be deemed as online game operation though such offerings may not directly generate revenue. Moreover, those entities shall be regarded as a game's joint operators and may be held liable for non-compliance in game operation if they take part in (i) user registration, game downloading, maintenance, debugging, fee settlement and collection, game marketing or other relevant operation or services; and (ii) game revenue share.

The above-mentioned clarifications on online game operation and operators are intended to eliminate any circumvention of MOC's administration and subject the following activities and parties to the Notice and other relevant regulations:

  • publishing or operating free-to-play games with any type of in-game purchase or advertisement;
  • various forms of game testing granting game access to non-specific users, including distribution of invitation codes, open beta test and etc., and
  • joint operators of an online game, namely those work together with the on-the-record game operator in the game operation ecosystem and share game revenue, including APP Stores, Internet platform providers, advertisement platform or technical service providers and etc..

In addition, the broadened scope of online game operation and operators may actually require those joint operators must also have an Internet Culture License, which is granted only to domestic companies with no foreign investment according to currently applicable laws. That is to say, foreign invested companies in the game operation ecosystem may not be allowed to share revenue generated from online game operation after May 1, 2017 though they are still able to provide technical or operational services in relation to online game operation.

Rules on Virtual Items

According to the Notice, from regulatory compliance perspective, virtual items shall be treated as virtual currency if they are purchasable with real world money or virtual currency and convertible to other in-game virtual items or value-added services. Accordingly, the following rules governing virtual currency will become applicable to such virtual items:

  1. they shall not be redeemable for real world money except that the game operation or service is to be ceased;
  2. they can only be redeemable for physical goods of small value; and
  3. game operators shall publicize relevant information including virtual items' names, functions, prices, conversion rates, expiry dates as well as how to give away, assign and trade virtual items upon updating the game version, adjusting functions and expiry dates of virtual items, introducing new virtual items or holding any provisional in-game events.

Rules on "Random Events"

One important highlight of the Notice is for the first time it sets forth rules on gameplays similar to lucky draw or lottery by which users can get or make conversion of virtual items or other value-added services randomly ("Random Event"). According to the Notice,

  1. it is forbidden to require or encourage users to spend real world money or virtual currency to take part in Random Events;
  2. game operators shall timely and truthfully publicize the information regarding Random Events including names, functions, content and quantity of the virtual items or other similar services offered in the Random Events as well as the probability of winning and the results;
  3. virtual items and other similar services offered in the Random Events shall be obtainable by other means, such as they can be purchased via real world money or virtual currency; and
  4. records of any Random Event shall be kept by game operators for no less than 90 days.

No doubt the above-listed guidelines will help to avoid using Random Events as in-game gambling, greatly enhance the transparency of Random Events and facilitate users to make informed decision when taking part in such in-game events. On the other hand, it remains highly challenging to game developers and operators how to "translate" such dos and don'ts in game languages easily acceptable to users, how to implement these rules in the game world, and more importantly, how to ensure regulatory compliance without sacrificing game fun too much.

Other User Protection Measures

In addition to the above, the Notice also requires game operators to put in place the following measures to protect users' rights and interests:

  1. users must register their real identity information if they wish to make any in-game purchase;
  2. a monetary cap must be set for any user's single payment for in-game purchase in one game;
  3. in-game purchase or expense must be confirmed by users when requesting their payment of real world money or virtual currency, including payment amount, virtual items or similar services to be purchased;
  4. user's personal information should be properly taken care of to avoid unauthorised use or disclosure of their privacy information; and
  5. there must be restrictions and limitations on minors' access to certain game scenes or functions, their play hours as well as in-game purchase or expense.

The real-name registration is already widely implemented in the operation of web games and client games in China. However, currently the SAPPRFT does not require real-name registration in mobile games, thus a majority of mobile games is downloadable or playable without users' real-name registration. It remains to be seen whether real-name registration will become mandatory in mobile games as well after the Notice takes effect, .

Reiteration of MOC's Approval and Filing Requirements

In the last section of the Notice, it lists the corresponding penalty provisions in higher-level legislations promulgated by the MOC for reference if online game operators are found in violation of the Notice. It's worth noting that the Notice specifically restates that game operators may be subject to administrative punishments if they engage in the operation of foreign-copyrighted game without approval by the MOC or of domestic-copyrighted game without filing the same with the MOC. Such reiteration does not come from nowhere. As far as governmental administration over online game content is concerned, there is still significant overlap in the jurisdiction of the MOC and SAPPRFT according to applicable laws. In particular, to launch a foreign-copyrighted game in China, approvals from the SAPPRFT and MOC must be obtained respectively. However, recently a large number of online game (especially mobile game) operators seem to pay more attention to the SAPPRFT's approval requirements, which gives rise to a major mismatch of games approved by the SAPPRFT and games approved by or filed with the MOC in practice. The reiteration of MOC's approval and filing requirements in the Notice is to remind game operators the importance of the MOC's role in game content review and approval in addition to its role in administration over online gaming market.

Impact of the Notice

The Notice came as another important signal that censorship and administration over online game operation are further tightened. To comply with the Notice, online game developers and operators may have to examine their games and make changes in game settings, functions, gameplays, fee payment and collection system, user registration system and etc. before the Notice comes into effect on May 1, 2017. Though the regulatory authorities have paid great effort to make the legislation and administration keep pace with the fast developments of online gaming industry, it is extremely challenging to regulate such a new and special area with traditional means, thus it remains to be seen how the Notice will be implemented in practice. In addition, the long-term existence of the dual approval systems not only creates heavier administrative burden for entities in the industry, but also makes regulatory compliance more complicated and expensive for those entities.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.