China said on Friday the livestreaming of unauthorized video games was banned, signalling stricter enforcement of rules as part of its broad crackdown on the gaming industry aimed at purging content the government does not approve of.
The National Radio and Television Administration said platforms of all kinds must not livestream games that are not approved by related authorities.
In particular, the livestreaming of overseas games or competitions should not be carried out without approval, it said, adding that livestreamers should resist "abnormal aesthetics" and harmful celebrity fan culture.
"For a period of time, issues such as chaotic online livestreaming and teenage addiction to games have raised widespread concerns in society and effective measures need to be taken urgently," the regulator said in a notice on its website.
Daniel Ahmad, a senior analyst at research firm Niko Partners, said while unlicensed games could not officially be released in mainland China, many were promoted on livestreaming platforms such as Huya Inc, DouYu International Holdings and Bilibili Inc.
"Earlier this year, Elden Ring was a hit on Chinese game live streaming platforms reaching 17.1 million cumulative daily average viewers, despite not having a license," he said.
Last year, China introduced new rules that limit the amount of time under-18s can spend on video games to three hours a week, a move it said was necessary to combat gaming addiction.
It also implemented a freeze on gaming licenses which regulators only lifted this week after gaming companies made major adjustments to their business practices.
Companies have been asked to delete content that is violent, deemed to celebrate wealth or foster the worship of celebrities.
On Thursday, China's largest gaming firm Tencent Holdings Ltd said it would shut down a service allowing Chinese gamers to play unapproved foreign games on overseas platforms.
The impact of this latest ban on the shares of major Chinese gaming and livestreaming firms was not immediately clear. Hong Kong markets were closed on Friday for a holiday while Huya and DouYu are listed in the United States.
The ban "could impact game companies quite significantly if it is strictly implemented," said Charles Yu, head of law firm Pillar Legal's Shanghai office.
Tencent, DouYu, Huya and Bilibili did not immediately respond to requests for comment.