Welcome to another episode of China regulating technology, and today’s news is about gaming restrictions. In a set of new rules, the country has restricted children to only three hours of online gaming per week.
If you think this means kids can play games for three hours any time of the week, you’re wrong. The administration has allowed online gaming from 8PM to 9PM on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays. This feels like my parents setting dedicated time for TV around school exams.
These rules build on restrictions issued in 2019, where children aged under 18 were allowed 90 minutes of game time per day, no gaming after 10PM, and a cap on in-app purchases.
Game providers like Tencent and NetEase have been warned that they can’t serve games to minors outside the designated time. Plus, login and registration are mandatory for all users to play any game.
Last year, China rolled out its real-name authentication system for games. Under those rules, game publishers need to verify users via their names and national IDs (akin to a social security number), and, based on the age monitor, and restrict gameplay.
With these systems already in place, game publishers will need to just tweak their timings. But it might take some hit on their revenue. China also appealed to parents and schools to spread education amongst children about online gaming.
China’s crackdown on game addiction is not sudden. While the authorities have taken initiatives to promote eSports, they’ve also been aggressive to curb gaming addiction. A state media outlet published an article this month labeling Honour of Kings, a multiplayer battle arena game from Tencent with more than 100 million followers, as ‘spiritual opium.’
The game publishers might be unhappy, but they’re following these rules strickly. Comapnies like Tencent have been using facial scanning tech to catch minors who might be breaking rules to play games.
Daniel Ahmad, a gaming analyst at Niko Partners, told the Finaincial Times, that the policy is “extremely restrictive.” He noted that according to Tencent, players under 16 count for 2.6% of player spend, so there would be some impact on that revenue. Bloomberg analysts also noted that that companies such as Tencent and NetEase will have moderate financial impact due to these new restrictions.