Tencent’s stock plunged more than 4 percent on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange after it rolled out tough restrictions on King of Glory, its popular online game, on Tuesday. It’s estimated the Internet giant lost at least HK $100 billion in the market.
Tencent’s new rules limit players who are 12 years old or younger to no more than one hour of gameplay per day and block them from connecting after 9 pm. Minor who are older than 12 can only play two hours per day. Users are automatically kicked out of the system when their time is up.
The dive also came after a storm of criticism in Chinese media. The People’s Daily, the newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published two editorials on Monday and Tuesday tarring King of Glory as “poisonous to the youth” and calling for government supervision of Internet gaming. It cited cases of children stealing money to buy virtual equipment or suffering brain necrosis after playing the game more than 40 hours without rest.
The People’s Daily also criticized the game for teaching children false history by casting true figures in fictional plots.
Tencent has defended the game, saying “online games are not necessarily fearsome goblins or the opiate of the masses.”
“We understand parents worry that their children may become addicted to the game. But seeking out fun is human nature. Playing video games is just a part of life. It’s better to guide people to play in moderation rather than ban them outright,” said Li Min, head of the King of Glory development team, in an interview published on Tencent’s WeChat.
King of Glory has more than 200 million users in China and generates 100 million yuan ($14 million) per day.
Li said his team must take responsibility since King of Glory has become so influential in China, even though the new limits conflict with Tencent’s short-term interests.
“Demonizing an industry won’t solve the real problem of poor parenting in many families,” said a user on Sina Weibo responding to state media’s criticism.
“The media might be overreacting to this,” another user said, “Parents, please pay more attention to your children instead of staring at your mobile phones all day.”