Chinese regulator orders online gaming firms to limit services to minors in strictest anti-addiction move
Published: Aug 30, 2021 07:27 PM
Tencent Games exhibition zone at China International Fair for Trade in Service in Beijing on September 9th, 2020. Photo: VCG

Tencent Games exhibition zone at China International Fair for Trade in Service in Beijing on September 9th, 2020. Photo: VCG

China's National Press and Publication Administration, the country's media regulator, on Monday ordered internet gaming companies to provide just one hour of service to minors from 8-9 pm on Fridays, weekends and official holidays, in the strictest requirement yet in the country's campaign to tighten regulations to prevent gaming addiction among minors.

Gaming firms are banned from providing services to minors in any manner at any other time, in order to prevent minors from becoming addicted to internet games, and to protect their physical and psychological health, the notice said.

The regulator also ordered gaming companies to strictly carry out real-name registration and log-ins. 

Publication management departments at various levels should also strengthen supervision and inspection of the detailed implementation of these measures to prevent minors from addiction, and gaming firms that fail to implement the measures will be dealt with seriously based on relevant laws, according to the notice.  

In response to the notice, Tencent said that it will strictly abide by the rules and actively implement the requirements, adding that the company has developed and applied new technologies and new functions to protect minors since 2017.

Tencent is the developer of Honor of Kings, which has gained huge popularity among Chinese students but also attracted growing criticism from the public and official media outlets.

News of the strict requirements sent shares of major US-listed Chinese gaming firms sharply lower in pre-market trading. US-listed NetEase slumped over 5 percent, while video-sharing platform Blibli was down 3 percent as of 6 pm Beijing time.

NetEase also said on Monday that it would strictly abide by the new requirements and actively implement them. 

The notice also calls on all sectors of society, including families and schools, to jointly manage and govern the situation, to assume the responsibility of guardians for minors, and create a good, healthy development environment for minors.

Liu Dingding, a Beijing-based independent tech analyst, told the Global Times on Monday that the new rule is conductive for minors' growth, as it curbs video game addition - which damages children's health - and makes them more focused on learning and other activities such as sports. 

"It will bring benefits to the country in the long run," Liu said.

Some industry observers said that the impact on gaming companies would be limited, as minors only account for a "negligible" share of China's total gaming population.

According to Tencent's financial statements, players who are younger than 16 contributed only 2.6 percent of the revenue generated by all game players in its fiscal 2021 second quarter. Income contributions from players under 12 were only 0.3 percent.

"But gaming firms must do more to fight addiction and use technological methods, such as facial recognition, to build a multi-faceted mechanism that addresses the issue from the root," Liu said.

China introduced regulations in 2019 that prohibit minors from playing video games from 10 pm-8 am or from playing more than 90 minutes on a weekday.

The country also set up a national online game anti-addiction real-name authentication system, with over 5,000 enterprises and 10,000 games set to be connected.

Global Times