Night games sessions for Chinese children will be much more difficult now Tencent, China’s largest technology company, uses facial recognition to prevent children from playing after going to bed. Announced yesterday in a press release, Tencent said its new technology would require players to confirm their identity using the facial recognition algorithm in order to continue playing mobile games beyond 10 p.m. It's just the last step for Chinese companies to take shape (and stay ahead) The regulation of China's restrictions about when and how minors play.
So far, the feature has been activated in 60 of Tencent's mobile games, including Honor of Kings and Game for Peace, but the feature will be developed in addition to Tencent's mobile games over time.
Their way of working is simple: if children under the age of 18 try to play a game after 10pm or before 8am, they will need to pass a check using the phone’s camera to verify their identity and age. This additional measure is intended to stop children who were easily avoiding previous age prevention methods to enforce China’s strict gambling activity laws.
In 2019, the government agency responsible for regulating China’s huge gaming industry was launched a new set of constraints that Chinese gambling companies implement real-name verification systems, as well as limits on how long children can play and how much they can spend. Some of the systems designed to enforce these rules were obviously easy to avoid, but that’s why Tencent now uses more airtight methods like facial recognition to limit infractions.
The Chinese government says these regulations should curb gambling addiction in China, where mobile and PC games are very popular. At the same time, privacy advocates are concerned that this collected data could be used for more harmful reasons, such as China's social credit system where some citizens may be penalized for various behaviors that the government deems inappropriate, such as not properly ordering their recycling.
At the same time, it also presents a moral dilemma for developers who have to implement these systems, especially if they are not Chinese. In recent years, Tencent has aggressively expanded its influence in the gaming industry by investing in it. several companies including Yager, Epic Games and Platinum Games.
In 2019, Riot Games was the subject of controversy after it was pressured to take action against addiction in the Chinese version of League of Legends. Tencent owns a 100% stake in Riot Games, despite being an American company. But by creating systems that were used to collect data and monitor the behavior of Chinese players, it raises thorny questions about the complicity of U.S. developers if that data were used to violate the freedoms of those players.
But, interestingly, according to one Digital Trends Report, the Chinese version of League of Legends does not yet use this new facial recognition system, but it is likely to be added eventually.
It is also clear that this new facial recognition system is an attempt by Tencent to continue to hold on to the good graces of the Chinese government. While China’s gaming industry is so large (estimates say it will reach 781 million players and $ 55 billion in revenue by 2025), it is also extremely volatile. In 2019, a review of how China regulates and censors games caused a total freeze on the launch of new games that lasted nearly 9 months. During that time, Tencent estimated that it lost $ 190 billion in market value.