After dubbing video games as “spiritual opium,” China bans online gaming for those under 18 by restricting playtime to three hours weekly.
The law applies from September 1st onwards and will force video game companies to enforce a schedule for minors’ gaming hours: 8 to 9 PM on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. An official notice has been released by China’s National Press and Publication Administration.
Up until now, the policy was a lot more lenient: kids below 12 could play up to an hour per day, while minors between 12 and 18 could game up to two hours daily. The reason for the change is likely two-fold: the rise of local gaming companies, such as Tencent and Netease, and their widespread influence, and the government’s growing concern regarding the effects of video games on children.
To comply with the new policy, Chinese game companies will have to use a registration system using users’ real names. A similar method was employed by gaming giant Tencent to limit players’ gaming time on Honor of Kings – a hugely successful mobile game. Free-to-play online mobile video games are infamously popular in China and Asia as a whole, so it’s no surprise to see curbs.
Using a real-name registration method will mean that only one user can be linked to each account. The system will use an ID verification system, and the government is set to perform regular checks to ensure gaming companies are complying.
China Bans Online Gaming For Minors: Not Everything Is Clear Yet
There are still some facets to the new rule that are unclear: how will foreign companies go about implementing those rules? How will console games be impacted? Is it safe to assume that offline, single-player games won’t be impacted at all? What about the likelihood of gamers using VPNs or foreign servers to bypass the policy?
While the news will definitely be a blow to Chinese game companies’ coffers, Tencent has issued a positive statement in reaction to the policy: “Tencent expressed its strong support and will make every effort to implement the relevant requirements of the Notice as soon as possible.”
According to Bloomberg, NetEase‘s shares are down 8% after the announcement: a reflection of investors’ dipping confidence, as minors represent a sizeable share of the online gaming market.
China’s ban on online gaming for minors also leaves us to wonder whether other countries will be adopting similar measures in the future.