The Chinese government has restricted gaming hours for players under the age of 18 to one hour per day from Friday to Sunday, and only between the hours of 8 PM and 9 PM. It has also ordered game companies to ban children from accessing games during the rest of the week, outside of holidays.
According to Reuters, the National Press and Publication Administration told Chinese State Media outlet Xinhua that “protecting the physical and mental health of minors is related to the people’s vital interests, and relates to the cultivation of the younger generation in the era of national rejuvenation.”
This announcement follows weeks of build-up by Chinese regulators to reign in youth access to online games, and builds on years of regulation in that space. Just recently, for example, Tencent announced it was implementing facial recognition technology to prevent minors from circumventing previous limits (they’d been using fake credentials to create adult accounts).
Even before this latest government restriction, China already had limits on how much and often children could play games. Until now, minors were able to access video games any day of the week for a maximum of 1.5 hours.
Elsewhere, Chinese State Media outlet Economic Information Daily decried video games as “spiritual opium” and calling for more regulation of the video game business.
These regulatory moves have already had ripple effects on the broader world of game development. Analysts recently blamed Krafton’s poor South Korean stock market debut on these new regulations due to the company’s close relationship with Chinese conglomerate Tencent Holdings. Tencent publishes multiple versions of PUBG: Battlegrounds, including a special version made for China.
This move seems to mark the culmination of a shift in the Chinese Government’s strategy for implementing video game regulations. In prior years, regulations were implemented allegedly to present the spread of Myopia (nearsightedness).
The last few weeks however have marked a specific change toward labeling video games and online gaming as addicting. This shift may already be impacting the business plans for large conglomerates like Tencent and Netease, who are already extensively investing in studios outside of China.
China is not the only country concerned with how much time minors are spending playing video games—but it is the only one doubling down on state-led restrictions. Last week South Korea announced an end to its limits on video game play for minors, choosing instead to reinforce an opt-in limitation program that can be managed by parents or legal guardians.