Vietnam tightens its grip on “cross-border” online games

Illegal online games have been appearing more frequently in Vietnam through Apple and Google app stores, authorities said.

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Vietnamese authorities have been tightening their grip on illegal online games published on Apple and Google app stores—removing 142 of them since 2017 with support from Google, Apple, and Facebook—according to local media reports.

Separately, the Apple Transparency Report revealed that Apple removed nine apps out of 29 that were requested by the Vietnamese Government between July and December 2018. The “requests relate to illegal gambling and/or unlicensed gaming app investigations,” Apple said.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications defines illegal online games as those that contain elements of violence, gambling, and those found to distort Vietnamese history.

Additionally, online games, also those hosted outside of Vietnam or “cross-border,” must be granted a license and have their content approved by Vietnamese authorities before being released to Vietnamese audiences. Foreign game companies can partner with a local company and ask that local company to apply for a license for its games. Another option is to set up a branch or representative office in Vietnam and do the paperwork on their own. Failing to do so makes games illegal.

Authorities have also warned local businesses not act as middlemen by collecting money from online game players in the country and transferring proceeds to the foreign game publishers. The Ministry has asked local game businesses to store data about players in Vietnam and provide information of players to authorities if requested.

In 2018, the Ministry said it licensed 175 online games in Vietnam, 95% of which came from China.

According to a recent report by local game publisher Appota, Vietnamese users combined, consume on average more than 400,000 hours per day watching livestreams of video games.