Chinese government restricts minors’ access to online games

As part of its recent efforts to curb youth gaming addiction, China’s General Administration of Press and Publication on Tuesday released bold new regulations for online gaming companies to restrict the activities of minors on its platforms.

The new regulations will certainly alter the business models of online multiplayer gaming giants such as Tencent, as they restrict both the time and amount of money that children and teenagers can spend on their platforms each day.

Chinese regulations

The government notice put forward six measures:

1. Online gaming accounts must implement real name registration. This helps identify minors (children under 18) so that their usage can be controlled.

2. Minors cannot be allowed to play online games between the hours of 10pm and 8am each day. They shall be restricted to no more than 90 minutes of play each weekday, and up to 3 hours on weekend days and legal holidays.

3. Users under the age of 8 cannot make in-game purchases with their accounts. 

For users between 8 and 16 years-old, the single recharge amount cannot exceed 50 yuan, and they cannot spend more than 200 yuan each month.

For 16 to 17 year-olds, a single recharge cannot exceed 100 yuan, and they cannot spend more than 400 yuan each month.

4. The gaming industry shall strengthen supervision and enforcement of these measures.

5. The gaming industry should implement measures to ensure that the content, subject matter, and gameplay of online games are appropriate for users of all ages, including minors.

6. Parents, schools and other social forces have the responsibility to watch and guide minors to establish good online gaming habits.

An unnamed official from the department interviewed by the State-run Xinhua News Agency said the regulations were adopted after conducting relevant research and seeking expert opinion in order to combat mental and physical health problems stemming from gaming addiction and “excessive consumption” by minors. The notice saddles corporations with a certain level of responsibility, alongside government supervision and parental encouragement.

According to the article, online game enterprises that have not fulfilled these requirements can have their licenses revoked if they fail to comply within a specified time limit. The official also stated that the General Administration of Press and Publication is working with the Ministry of Public Security to build a unified identification system for game companies to accurately verify minors’ identities. 

Until recently, China was the world’s largest and fastest-growing gaming market, growing to 235.5 billion yuan in 2017 from 67.1 billion yuan just five years before (Statista). 

Last year, the government instituted a 9-month freeze on gaming licenses which slowed down approval of new titles, leaving a more deliberate and strict approval process in its wake. These measures, combined with the new age restrictions, are helping put the U.S. on track to overtake the Chinese gaming market by the end of the year, leading the world with $36.9 billion in revenue in 2019, driven largely by an uptick in console sales (Newzoo report).

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