China imposes stricter limits on online games for children under 18. An announcement by the National Press and Publications Administration (Google translated) says that as of Sept. 1, minors will only be able to play online games for an hour a day, from 8 to 9 p.m., on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
Players are also required to register with their real names according to the rules, and online gaming companies cannot provide any service, even a "tourist experience mode", to unregistered users. All online games should also be run using the real name verification system against the online addiction of the National Press and Publications and will also increase the "frequency and intensity" of inspections for ensure compliance.
The regulations are the most restrictive in the world. According to one Xinhua According to reports, the new rules are aimed at combating online gambling addiction among young people, "who are still in a phase of physical and mental development and have poor self-control."
The new restrictions are a significant tightening of the limits imposed in 2019, which limited online games for children to 90 minutes a day during the week and three hours a day on weekends and holidays, and imposed a curfew of 22 to at 8 a.m. the next day. These rules also require verification of the real name of online gaming accounts, but implementation may have been erratic: the latest guidelines specifically warn that online gaming companies that have not "strictly implemented" the rules will be treated "seriously." .
One of the companies that seems to be ahead of this particular curve is Tencent, China’s largest technology company, which in July announced it was using facial recognition technology to ensure minors weren’t playing online from at 10 p.m. Anyone trying to play a game at a restricted time should use their phone’s camera to verify their identity and age, an age gate much harder to move than most.
More recently, Tencent announced its own stricter limits when it comes to games for minors, though it didn’t get as far as the new government regulations. In August it reduced the allowed playing time from 90 minutes a day to 60 a week and from three hours to two on weekends and holidays. It also increased its facial recognition controls to an "all-day" inspection system that required authentication of all suspicious accounts to crack down on minors who have managed to evade the system and banned online gaming for all children under 12 years.
Tencent’s enthusiastic involvement may help keep it in good graces from the government, but it hasn’t done very well financially: the Chinese government’s increasingly aggressive regulations on online gambling have pushed the price of Tencent shares up. from a maximum of HK $ 766 ($ 98) to HK $ 466 ($ 60) today. Still, Tencent is likely to be eager to do everything it can to prevent an even tougher crackdown on games. In 2018, Tencent would have lost $ 190 billion in market value after the Chinese government stopped issuing gaming license approvals in March of that year.
The new rules only apply to online games: a government official told Xinhua that it is up to parents how long their children play "other games that are conducive to the growth of children." This distinction is likely to reflect both the nature of the Chinese market, where there are free online games and sports tremendously popular, and the simple fact that it’s much harder for police games when players don’t have to be connected to the Internet.