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China bans children from playing online video games during the week

As of this week, minors will only be allowed one hour of play between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Fridays, weekends and holidays, according to a statement from the Chinese media watchdog – the National Administration of Press and Publications (NPPA) – which has been published. by state news agency Xinhua on Monday.

The move represents a huge tightening of earlier limits set by the agency in 2019, which had limited gaming to 90 minutes on weekdays and three hours on weekends. for kids. Authorities said the restrictions were put in place to prevent young people from becoming addicted to video games.

NPPA noted this week that the rules were published “at the start of the news [school] semester, by imposing specific requirements to prevent online gaming addiction and protect the healthy growth of minors. “

Investors were quick to react. NetEase (NTES) fell 3.4% during normal New York trading hours on Monday. Tencent (TCEHY) suffered about the same drop in Hong Kong on Tuesday before rising 1.6%.

An intensifying repression

In recent months, China has embarked on a major crackdown on private enterprise, which has engulfed some of the country’s major players. Initially, it appeared that the main target for regulators was the booming tech sector, but lately it has spread to other industries, such as private education.

Alicia Yap, analyst at Citi, said she expected the impact of the latest restrictions on game companies to be “minimal,” with less of a “single-digit” impact on Chinese revenue. for Tencent and NetEase.

“That said, we believe this will represent yet another setback for the industry and potentially send another wave of negative sentiment to the market and lower overall investor expectations for the future growth of the gaming industry,” he said. she wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday.

At a press conference on Monday, a spokesperson for the NPPA said the new strict restrictions were a response to complaints from parents.

“Many parents have said that teenagers’ addiction to online games is seriously affecting their education and physical and mental health, leading to a range of social problems, causing pain to many parents,” the unidentified representative said, according to a report. from Xinhua.
In recent years, the Chinese government implemented a registration system that required people who played computer games to do so under their real names, allowing companies to verify them.

This week, he reiterated that policy, with the NPPA noting that “online gaming companies will not provide gaming services in any form … to users who have not registered or logged in with their real name.”

China bans children from playing online video games during the week

In a statement on Tuesday, Tencent said it has been working on “various new technologies and functions for the protection of minors” since 2017.

“This will continue, as Tencent strictly adheres to and actively implements the latest requirements of the Chinese authorities,” the company added.

Tencent has previously noted that the amount of income it derives from minors who play games is relatively small. In his latest presentation of his results, he said players under the age of 16 only accounted for 2.6% of his gross gaming revenue in China.

Martin Lau, the chairman of the company, also said at the time that “there were a lot of new regulations coming up, but we’re pretty confident in our ability to comply.”

The Chinese tech giant previously made headlines earlier this month for announcing limits on the time minors can spend playing the company’s online games, like the popular title “Honor of Kings “.

Under these rules, minors could only play the game for two hours on public holidays and one hour on other days.

China bans children from playing online video games during the week

The statement came after a Xinhua-owned newspaper published a lengthy review that used terms such as “spiritual opium” and “electronic drug” to describe the harmful effects of play on children.

NetEase did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The new rules sparked an uproar on Chinese social media, where many users complained that they were being too strict.

“This policy assumes that the game is bad,” wrote one user on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.
Some also pointed to the downsides of imposing a blanket ban, suggesting that there should be rules that apply to “different types of games and to minors of different ages”.
“Are [the ages of] 7 and 17 the same? “Asked another Weibo user.

Others worried that it would ultimately put the country behind in the competitive gaming world.

“China has no future for eSports at this time. It is impossible for teenagers to train,” wrote a third Weibo user. “Children in other countries [will] win the world champion at 17, as we start playing the game at 18. “