Starting this week, minors will be allowed only an hour of play time between 8 pm and 9 pm on Friday, weekends and public holidays, according to a statement from Chinese media watchdog — the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) — that was posted by state news agency Xinhua on Monday.
The NPPA noted this week that the rules were being issued “at the beginning of the new [school] semester, putting specific requirements for preventing the addiction to online games, and protecting the healthy growth of minors.”
An escalating crackdown
Alicia Yap, an analyst at Citi, said that she expected the impact of the latest curbs on gaming companies to be “minimal,” with less than a “low single digit” hit to China revenue for both Tencent and NetEase.
“That said, we believe this will still represent another setback to the industry and potentially send another wave of negative sentiment to the market and lower investors’ overall expectations for future gaming industry growth,” she wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.
At a news conference Monday, a spokesperson for the NPPA said that the strict new curbs were in response to complaints from parents.
This week, it reiterated that policy, with the NPPA noting that “online game enterprises shall not provide game services in any form … to users who have not registered or logged in with their real names.”
In a statement Tuesday, Tencent said it had been working on “various new technologies and functions for the protection of minors” since 2017.
“That will continue, as Tencent strictly abides by and actively implements the latest requirements from Chinese authorities,” the company added.
Martin Lau, the company’s president, also said at the time that “there are a lot of new regulations that will be coming, but we are pretty confident that we can be compliant.”
Under those rules, minors could play the game for only two hours on holidays, and an hour on other days.
That statement came after a newspaper owned by Xinhua published a lengthy analysis that used terms such as “spiritual opium” and “electronic drug” to describe the harmful effects of gaming on children.
NetEase did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The new rules prompted outcry on Chinese social media, where many users complained that they were too strict.
Others fretted that it would ultimately put the country behind in the world of competitive gaming.