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China pulls the plug on under-18 gamers

August 31, 2021

New regulations in China will mean under-18s will only be allowed to play games online for three hours a week. Authorities have expressed concern over gaming’s impact on society.

Young people compete in the online game League of Legends (LOL) in Xi'an city, northwest China's Shaanxi province
Chinese state media have described growing addiction to games as "spiritual opium"Image: Tian Ye/HPIC//dpa/picture alliance

Chinese authorities are taking gaming regulations to the next level. According to new rules published on Monday, minors will not be allowed to play more than 3-hours of games a week.

The National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) said in a notice that children could play games between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Fridays and weekends.

They can also play for an hour, at the same times, on public holidays, said the regulator, which oversees the country's video games market.

Previously under-18 gamers were allowed to play 90 minutes a day.

Why is Beijing playing hardball with gamers?

China's Communist government has become increasingly worried about the impact of gaming on its youth, from worsening eyesight to online addiction.

The restrictions are a major blow to the global gaming industry that caters to tens of millions of young players in the world's biggest gaming market.

According to the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association, the industry brought in revenue of 130 billion yuan ($20 billion) in the first half of this year.

Authorities have called for the need to pull the plug on growing addiction to games, described as "spiritual opium."

The new measures are part of Beijing's attempt to get a better grip on society.

Markets 'extremely jittery' amid China crackdown

How will the rules be enforced?

Online games require users to register with their ID card — a rule to ensure that the children do not lie about their age.

Moreover, gaming companies are prohibited from offering their services to minors in any form outside the set hours.

However, the NPPA statement did not mention how rule-breakers will be punished.

Could regulations K.O. China's tech companies?

Beijing has already taken a strong stance on tech firms, Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings.

The latest government measures are being felt in the markets with stocks dropping among some of China's online gaming heavyweights. 

The shares of Amsterdam tech company Prosus, which has a 29% stake in China's Tencent, was down 1.45%.

European online video gaming stocks Ubisoft and Embracer Group each fell over 2%.

kb/aw (AFP, Reuters)

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