Tencent Strengthens Protection Measures for Minors After Lambasting by Chinese State-Run Media

On Tuesday, a report called video gaming “spiritual opium” by the Economic Information Daily, a newspaper managed by the Xinhua News Agency, criticized Tencent‘s online game “Honor of Kings”. Tencent said it will gradually introduce seven new measures of “double reduction, double strikes and three initiatives” for its all games.

Double reduction means that Tencent will reduce the number of hours per day for underage users from 1.5 hours to 1 hour for non-holidays and from 3 hours to 2 hours for holidays, as well as prohibit people under the age of 12 from being able to top up within the game.

Double strikes are aimed at account registrations and to whom is buying upgrades or top ups. In response to several cases in which minors posed as adults so as to avoid detection, inspections will be conducted around the clock and any suspicious account will be need to be re-authenticated. The gaming giant will further crack down on users logging in through accelerators and some third-party platforms that buy and sell adult accounts.

The three initiatives proposed by Tencent are in an effort to protect underage gamers. The company has suggested that the whole gaming industry should strengthen its anti-addiction system to control the playing time of minors. Further, companies should implement a mechanism by which an age limit would trigger some types of game limitations. The industry as a whole should discuss the feasibility of completely banning primary school students under the age of 12 from playing mobile games.

Although the piece against video gaming was deleted, Hong Kong online game stocks slumped today, with Tencent falling more than 9%, NetEase nearly 15%, and XD more than 14%.

The report noted that, at present, 62.5% of Chinese netizens under 18 often play online games and 13.2% of underage mobile game users play mobile games for more than 2 hours every day on weekdays. Excessive time spent on online games has brought several negative effects on the physical and psychological well being of minors.

The article quoted a fifth-grade primary school student in Sichuan as saying that, among the 55 students in his class, more than ten students including himself played “Honor of Kings”. The interviewee said he played two or three times a week, and it was his dream to become a professional e-sports player in the future. However,  it may be that the marketing mechanism of gaming companies pushes minors to indulge in online games rather than concentrate on their studies, leading the kids to believe that becoming a professional e-sports player is an easy feat.

Since there is no game grading system within the Mainland of China, teenagers have been free to play whatever game they want for as long as they want. At present, the main protective measures in place include real-name systems and game time limits. Tencent said it has been upgrading its protective measures for minors since 2017, with a daily average of 5.8 million accounts being restricted for login and payments.

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China’s regulatory storm currently sweeping the technology sector and off-campus training industries has caused the prices of related stocks to plummet, and it is expected that regulatory pressure will continue in the future.

In the evening, the Economic Information Daily restored the article by renaming it with “Online Games Industry Shows Remarkable Growth”, but words as “opium” and “electronic drugs” were removed.