Home >Technology >News >China limits videogames to three hours a week for young people

SINGAPORE : China has a new rule for the country’s hundreds of millions of young gamers: No videogames during the school week, and one hour a day on Fridays, weekends and public holidays.

China on Monday issued strict new measures aimed at curbing what authorities describe as youth videogame addiction, which they blame for a host of societal ills, including distracting young people from school and family responsibilities.

The new regulation, announced by the National Press and Publication Administration, will ban minors from playing videogames entirely between Monday and Thursday. On the other three days of the week, and on public holidays, they will be only permitted to play between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

The announcement didn’t offer a specific age for minors, but previous regulations targeting younger videogamers have drawn the line at 18 years old.

Enforcement measures weren’t detailed, but in response to previous moves by the government to limit videogame playing by young people, Tencent Holdings Ltd., the world’s largest videogame company by revenue, has used a combination of technologies, automatically booting off players after a certain period of time and using real-name registration and facial-recognition technology to limit game play for minors.

Phone calls made to the National Press and Publication Administration went unanswered on Monday after business hours.

In restricting videogame play for younger people, the government is seeking to “effectively protect the physical and mental health of minors," China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency said Monday.

Monday’s new rule is likely to be felt through China’s online gaming industry, one of the world’s largest. The measure comes as the Chinese government seeks to rein in China’s technology industry, a campaign that has ignited a trillion-dollar selloff in Chinese equities and hit a range of businesses, including for-profit education providers, ride-hailing services and e-commerce platforms.

Videogames have become a particular object of ire as Beijing seeks to reshape an industry it has described as motivated by profit at the expense of public morals. A state-media outlet this month triggered a selloff in shares of Tencent, China’s largest technology company by market capitalization, after it published an article that described online games as “opium for the mind."

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, too, has warned publicly in recent months about the perils of youth gaming addiction, remarks that have put more pressure on officials to act.

After the regulations were published on Monday, following the close of stock-market trading, Tencent said it had introduced a variety of new functions to better protect minors. It vowed to continue to do so as it “strictly abides by and actively implements the latest requirements from Chinese authorities."

Tencent backs some of the biggest videogames in the industry and has invested in “Fortnite" maker Epic Games Inc. and “World of Warcraft" creator Activision Blizzard Inc.

In 2018, China stopped issuing videogame licenses for almost nine months amid similar concerns, costing Tencent more than $1 billion in lost sales, according to analyst estimates, and leading to a prolonged slump in its share price.

In 2019, the government banned users younger than 18 from playing videogames between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., and restricted them from playing more than 90 minutes of videogames on weekdays. Users between 16 and 18 years old aren’t permitted to spend more than 400 yuan, the equivalent of about $60, each month on videogames.

Tencent President Martin Lau warned during an earnings call this month that regulators are focused on limiting the amount of time and money that minors devote to online games across all platforms.

The company also said minors were only a small percentage of its online game revenue. Players under the age of 16 accounted for just 2.6% of its gross game receipts in China during the April-to-June quarter, it said, a quarter in which the company’s electronic-game revenue rose at its slowest pace since 2019.

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