Chinese regulators may be having second thoughts about online gaming crackdown: Proposed rule changes have been removed from government website

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(Image credit: Bloomberg Creative - Getty Images)

China may be walking back a series of sweeping new restrictions on gaming that were announced in December 2023, as a Reuters report says the country's gaming regulator has removed the proposed rule changes from the National Press and Publication Administration website entirely.

The proposed changes, which apparently appeared without warning to gaming companies, included requiring:

  • Publishers to have their servers located in China
  • The imposition of spending limits in online game
  • A ban on daily login rewards
  • A ban on "live-streaming of heavy tipping within games"
  • A ban on offering "probability-based luck draw features" to minors (so, loot boxes)

The extent and suddenness of the proposal hammered Chinese gaming companies like TenCent and NetEase, both of which saw an immediate, sharp drop in their share prices, and suffered a market value loss of nearly $80 billion between them. 

A couple weeks later the Chinese government indicated it was prepared to ease off a bit, saying "it would improve the rules by 'earnestly studying' public views," and reportedly removed the official who was responsible for proposing the changes.

But now the new rules are gone entirely, and in their place stands a 404 error. That's unusual, according to the Reuters report. "It seems officials were caught off guard by the overwhelming negative reaction from investors, businesses, and the public," 86Research analyst Charlie Chai said.

(Image credit: National Press and Publication Administration)

The removal of the proposed changes from the National Press and Publication Administration's website doesn't necessarily mean they're being dropped completely. Haitong Securities analyst Xiaoyue Hu said the removal of the page could signal that "further changes" to the proposed rules are in the works. 

But Hu added that previous proposed regulatory changes typically remained on the government's website even after the period of public consultation had changed, which is what makes this takedown notable.

Whatever the reason for the removal or the ultimate outcome to the proposed rule changes, the money people are at least cautiously happy: The share price of both Tencent and NetEase jumped up sharply immediately after the page was taken down.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.