China to ban children from playing online games for more than 3 hours a week

China is banning children from playing online games for more than three hours a week, the toughest restriction yet on the gaming industry as Chinese regulators continue to crack down on the tech sector.

Minors in China can only play games between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Fridays, weekends and public holidays from September 1, according to a notice from the National Press and Publication Administration.

This limits gaming to three hours a week for most weeks of the year, down from a previous restriction set in 2019 that allowed minors to play games for an hour and a half a day and three hours a day. holidays.

The new regulations affect some of China’s biggest tech companies, including gaming giant Tencent, whose online multiplayer game Honor of Kings is wildly popular around the world, and gaming company NetEase.

Tencent’s share price closed 0.6% lower at HK$465.80 on Monday ahead of the regulator’s announcement. Its market capitalization of $573 billion is down more than $300 billion from its peak in February, a drop equal to more than the total value of Nike Inc. or Pfizer Inc.

New York-listed NetEase stock was down about 9% at market open.

The gambling restrictions are part of an ongoing crackdown on tech companies, amid fears that tech companies – many of which provide ubiquitous messaging, payment and gambling services – could have an outsized influence on society.

Earlier this month, Tencent said it would limit in-game time for minors to one hour per day and two hours during holidays, and ban children under 12 from making in-game purchases.

The company issued the restrictions hours after a state-affiliated newspaper criticized the gambling industry and called the games “spiritual opium”.

Regulators said in Monday’s notice that they would step up oversight and increase the frequency of inspections of online gambling companies to ensure they are following regulations closely.

In recent months, Chinese authorities have targeted e-commerce and online education, and introduced new regulations to curb anti-competitive behavior after years of rapid growth in the tech sector.

Authorities last month barred companies that offer tutoring in basic school subjects from making a profit, stripping billions in market value from online education firms such as TAL Education and Gaotu Techedu.

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