China has instituted a new restriction on video games aimed at curbing what the government sees as a rising gaming addiction problem among the youth of the country. The new rule will allow minors to play video games for only one hour each on Fridays, weekend days and on holidays, according to a report from Bloomberg.
The new rules, which were announced on Monday, represent Beijing's latest efforts to rein in the gaming sector over concerns such software is affecting Chinese children's schoolwork and familial responsibilities. Earlier this month, a state-affiliated news outlet cited Tencent's mobile hit Honor of Kings in an article that called gaming "spiritual opium" that threatens to "destroy a generation." Although the drug reference was later removed online, the article nonetheless sent stocks tumbling and Tencent and others began vowing to institute improved controls over minors' play time to appease regulators.
Many investors in Chinese gaming firms and members of the gaming industry are now preparing for a fresh set of restrictions on mobile gaming, which in China is far and away the largest market by revenue due to longstanding home console bans that were only lifted in recent years. There are an estimated 110 million mobile game players under the age of 16 in China, according to gaming analyst Daniel Ahmad with Niko Partners.
Tencent, however, says it is prepared to adjust its business and is not overly concerned, adding that less than 3% of its sales in China came from players under the age of 16 in its most recent quarter. Prior to the new rule, Tencent restricted minors to one hour of play per day, and it will have to now restrict that even further in addition to abiding by new requirements such as linking accounts to a state-run anti-addiction system and requiring players register with real names, Bloomberg reported.
"Since 2017, Tencent has explored and applied various new technologies and functions for the protection of minors," the company told Bloomberg in a statement. "That will continue, as Tencent strictly abides by and actively implements the latest requirements from Chinese authorities."