AsiaToday reporter Kim Na-ri
China issued a foreign game service license for a South Korean game for the first time in nearly 4 years in what could be a relaxation of economic retaliation, raising hopes for the South Korean game industry to expand into the Chinese market.
According to local game developer Com2uS on Thursday, China’s National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) issued the license for “Summoners War: Sky Arena,” allowing the company to sell the mobile game in the Chinese market.
Released in 2014, the “Summoners War” series is one of Com2uS’ flagship games that has racked up more than 100 million downloads worldwide. It was previously the best-selling game in 53 countries on App Store and 11 countries on Google Play.
“We have sought China’s approval for the game since 2016,” a Com2uS official said. “With this opportunity, we will continue to expand our business presence in the Chinese market.”
South Korean game companies have been blocked from exporting their games to China since March 2017, when Beijing stopped issuing licenses as part of its retaliation for Seoul’s deployment of the THAAD missile defense system.
The South Korean government has demanded Beijing’s withdrawal of retaliatory actions for THAAD deployment and cooperation for cultural content exchange, when Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi made a visit to Seoul on Nov. 25-27 to meet his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha. Industry officials say the latest move could be a signal that South Korean game companies can now enter the Chinese market.
“The license approval for ‘Summoners War’ is raising expectations for the South Korean game industry to expand into the Chinese market,” an official in the game industry said.
While the latest news has raised hopes within the industry, some experts warn that it could be a highly calculated move from China aimed at keeping U.S. allies in check amid trade dispute with the United States.
“Due to concerns that US President-elect Joe Biden’s presidency will boost the Korea-U.S. alliance, China is giving signals that it might lift the ban on Korean games and watching how Korea reacts,” said Wi Jung-hyun, a professor of business administration at Chung-Ang University and head of the Korea Game Society. “It would be naïve to think that a string of South Korean games will now receive licenses,” Wi said.
He added that South Korea needs to continue to pressure China for more licenses.