142 illegal games removed from Apple, Google app stores in Vietnam

By Chau An   July 16, 2019 | 07:38 pm PT
142 illegal games removed from Apple, Google app stores in Vietnam
A person plays game on a mobile phone. Photo by Reuters.
Vietnamese authorities have been working with Apple, Google and Facebook to remove unauthorized online games providing cross-border services.

Le Quang Tu Do, deputy head of the Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information under the Ministry of Information and Communications, said on Tuesday his agency had found many games downloaded in Vietnam through Apple's App Store and Google Play that violated the country's regulations.

Many were found contain elements of gambling, violence, profanity or distortion of Vietnamese history, while others were published without authorization.

The information ministry has therefore been working with Google, Apple and Facebook to block, take down or stop ad monetization for these games.

Since 2017, these efforts have led to 142 illegal games being removed from App Store and Google Play in Vietnam.

Earlier this month, Supercell, a Finnish mobile game development company behind popular titles such as Clash of Clans, Hay Day and Clash Royale, announced that it had discontinued all of its games in Vietnam due to "local regulatory issues."

"This means that our games will be taken down from the Vietnamese Google Play and Apple App Store. Our games will still be available globally in other countries and gameplay outside Vietnam will not be affected. We hope this is not a goodbye for Vietnam as we keep looking for solutions to bring our games back in the future," the announcement said.

According to Vietnam's law regulations, a video game in which multiple players interact with each other simultaneously through the game's server must be granted a license for providing games services and have its content approved before it can be published in Vietnam.

"Games being provided on the Vietnamese market must be licensed, we don't accept cross-border games that have players and generate revenue in Vietnam without permission," Do said.

In order to have their games licensed, foreign companies must either collaborate with Vietnamese companies and have their Vietnamese partners carry out the procedures or establish a branch and representative office in Vietnam in which the foreign company's capital contribution must not exceed 49 percent.

During the licensing process, the game must be taken down from application stores and websites in Vietnam and it can only be made available again once it is approved.

Do also warned that Vietnamese companies must not collaborate with foreign firms to act as a front and collect money from players to transfer to their foreign partners, adding that a number of such companies have been busted and punished by the information ministry and the police.

To avoid this, the ministry requires that Vietnamese companies collaborating with foreign game publishers must have a server to store players' data in Vietnam, and must be able to provide information on players when requested by the authorities.

The games must also have their content and images altered to be in line with Vietnamese regulations, as had to be done with the Vietnamese version of the game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) which had the blood's color changed to blue and the voice chat function disabled.

The reviewing and licensing process for a game is expected to take 20 days but could be extended to over a month if violations are found by the appraisal council, which includes representatives of the information, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Youth Union.

In 2018, a total of 175 online games were licensed for publishing in Vietnam, 95 percent of which were from China. The rate of games being licensed is increasing steadily each year.

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