China limits gaming time for under-18s to one hour a day on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays

  • China’s top watchdog for gaming and other forms of online media, formally issued the rules to combat gaming addiction among teenagers
  • The NAAP said that gaming companies are the main entities responsible for stopping children from becoming addicted to games

Beijing has issued a new rule limiting the gaming time for players aged under 18 to between 8pm and 9pm only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays, marking the country’s most stringent measure yet to tackle gaming addiction among young people.

The National Press and Publication Administration (NAAP), China’s top watchdog for gaming and other forms of online media, formally issued the rules to combat gaming addiction among teenagers, according to a report by state media outlet Xinhua.

The previous rules, introduced in 2019, limited the play time for minors to no more than 90 minutes each day and 3 hours on statutory holidays.

While the direct impact on Chinese gaming companies such as Tencent Holdings and NetEase may be limited as players under 18 currently account for only a small part of revenues, over the longer term the new rule could gradually erode the country’s player base.

The notice also states that companies must strictly implement the real-name registration and login system in their games and not provide access to video games for those who are unregistered.

A child plays the game “Honour of Kings”, Tencent’s largest game by revenue, at home in Dezhou, Shandong province, on July 2, 2017. Fears of a broader gaming crackdown in China sent related stocks sinking, but an industry group says the government is only targeting addiction among underage players

“Many parents have said that the gaming addiction problem among teens and children has gravely affected their ability to learn and study as well as their physical and mental health, even causing a series of societal problems,” a spokesperson for NAAP told Xinhua.

NAAP said that gaming companies are the main entities responsible for stopping children from becoming addicted to games. Beijing’s heightened scrutiny of the industry in recent months has already hit the stock prices of Chinese gaming giants such as Tencent, NetEase and Bilibili.

After a state media article described video games as “spiritual opium” earlier in August, Tencent, the world’s largest gaming company by revenue, lost US$43 billion from its market valuation in a matter of hours. Tencent has lost more than US$400 billion in value since a high in February.

In their recent quarterly reports this month, Tencent and Bilibili both emphasised that they have faithfully implemented the anti-addiction measures required by state authorities and that minors have become a small portion of their overall user base.

Tencent said that players under 16 accounted for just 2.6 per cent of its gross gaming receipts in China, with those under 12 accounting for just 0.3 per cent. Bilibili said that minors contributed only 1 per cent of the company’s gaming revenue.

Author: Josh Ye, SCMP

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