China really doesn’t want young people to play online games

China has stricter limits on online gambling for people under the age of 18. An announcement from the National Press and Publications Administration (translated by Google) says that from September 1, minors will only be allowed to play online games for an hour a day. from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

Players are also required to register under their real names under the rules, and online gaming companies are not allowed to provide any services, even a “tourist experience mode”, to unregistered users. All online games must also go through the National Press and Publication Administration’s online gambling addiction real name verification system, and the “frequency and intensity” of inspections to ensure compliance will also be increased.

The regulations are the most restrictive in the world. According to a report from Xinhua, the new rules aim to curb online gambling addiction among young people, “who are still in the stage of physical and mental development, and have poor self-control.”

The new restrictions are a significant tightening of limits imposed in 2019, which capped online gaming for minors at 90 minutes a day all week long and three hours a day on weekends and holidays, and imposed a curfew. from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. the following day. These rules also required real name verification for online gaming accounts, but the implementation may have been patchy: the latest guidelines specifically warn that online gaming companies that have not “strictly enforced” work ”the rules will be treated“ seriously ”.

One company that appears to be ahead of that particular curve is Tencent, China’s largest tech company, which announced in July that it was using facial recognition technology to ensure minors don’t gamble online after 10 p.m. time. Anyone trying to play a game during restricted hours is required to use their phone’s camera to verify their identity and age, an age barrier that is much harder to overcome than most.

More recently, Tencent announced its own stricter limits on games for minors, although this did not go as far as the new government regulations. In August, it reduced allowed playing time from 90 minutes per day to 60 minutes per week and from three hours to two on weekends and holidays. It has also beefed up its facial recognition checks to an “all day inspection” system requiring re-authentication of all suspicious accounts in order to crack down on minors who have successfully bypassed the system, and has banned online gambling for any reason. person under 12 years old.

Tencent’s enthusiastic participation may help it stay in the good graces of the government, but it has not been very beneficial financially: The increasingly aggressive online gaming regulation of the Chinese government has pushed through the Tencent’s share price from a high of over HK $ 766 ($ 98) to HK $ 466 ($ 60) today. Still, Tencent is probably keen to do everything in its power to avoid an even more severe crackdown on gaming. In 2018, Tencent reportedly lost $ 190 billion in market value after the Chinese government stopped issuing gaming license approvals in March of the same year.

The new regulations only apply to online games: A government official told Xinhua that it is up to parents how long their children play “other games that promote the growth of minors.” This distinction likely reflects both the nature of the Chinese market, where free online games and esports are extremely popular, and the simple fact that it is much more difficult to control games when players do not need to. ‘be connected. to the Internet.

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