China sets a limit on the number of times minors ( according to china, individuals under the age of 14) can play video games to just three hours most weeks of the year. Recently, China was in the news for passing into law the strictest data- privacy act. This can be described as a dramatic escalation of restrictions which felt like a blow to the world’s largest mobile gaming market, as Beijing signaled it would continue a campaign to control the expansion of large tech companies.
Gaming platforms Tencent to NetEase. henceforth can only offer online gaming to minors from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays, weekends, and public holidays, state news agency Xinhua reported, citing a notice by the National Press and Publication Administration. The new rules, which limit teen playing time to three hours most weeks of the year, is a major step-up from a previous restriction set in 2019 of 1.5 hours per day, most days.
The escalating restrictions on Tencent’s biggest business are likely to spook investors that had cautiously returned to Chinese stocks in recent days, exploring bargains after a raft of regulatory probes into areas from online commerce to data security and ride-hailing ignited a trillion-dollar selloff in past weeks. “Three hours per week is too tight. Such a policy will have a negative impact on Tencent too,” Steven Leung, an executive director at UOB Kay Hian (Hong Kong) Ltd. said. “I thought regulatory measures would take a break gradually but it’s not stopping at all. It will hurt the nascent tech rebound for sure.”
NetEase slid as much as 7% in pre-market trading in New York, while Prosus NV, Tencent’s biggest shareholder, fell 1.9 % in Europe. Tencent and other companies have reported that minors account for only a fraction of their businesses, especially after recent restrictions. The country’s largest games company has also said the revenue from minors yields less than 3% of its gross gaming receipts in China.
Other important points discussed in the new rules include:
- All online games should be linked to a state anti-addiction system, and companies can’t provide services to users without real-name registrations
- Regulators will ratchet up checks over how gaming firms carry out restrictions on things like playing time and in-game purchases
- Regulators will work with parents, schools, and other members of society to combat youth gaming addiction
The new rules underscore the extent to which Beijing is intent on curbing gaming addiction among youths and pushing its future workforce toward more productive pursuits. Earlier in the month, state media published forceful critiques of the industry and at one point labeled games “spiritual opium.” That description was later removed, but share prices plunged out of concern for further restrictions.
Tencent, which is in 2018 and 2019 grappled with a widespread gaming industry crackdown then focused on myopia among children, is also struggling with a plethora of tightening regulations in areas such as social media, online finance, and commerce. It has proactively reduced the number of hours that minors can play its games, but the company was not nearly as restrictive as the government’s new rules. It limited minors to just an hour during weekdays and no more than two hours during vacations and holidays. “Since 2017, Tencent has explored and applied various new technologies and functions for the protection of minors,” Tencent said in a messaged statement. The company added, “That will continue, as Tencent strictly abides by and actively implements the latest requirements from Chinese authorities.”