The Chinese government is making it very clear that it is determined to stamp out children’s obsession with video games, even if it comes at the cost of hurting some of its biggest tech giants.
Beijing last week made a surprise announcement stipulating that under-18s could only play games for a maximum of three hours a week at specific times between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The measure is in line with other Communist Party regulatory measures ostensibly aimed at helping young people, including its crackdown on fan clubs and private tutoring schools.
It could go even further. South China Morning Post reports today (September 9) that China is slowing down the approval of all new online games. There was a nine-month suspension for new game approvals in 2018, also aimed at tackling addiction among children – it wiped nearly $200 billion from Tencent’s market value at one point.
A summoning of gaming giants
The Party’s publicity department and gaming watchdog, the National Press and Publication Administration, and several other agencies told the companies they must strictly enforce the gaming time limit for minors. and curb “erroneous tendencies” to focus on seeking profit and traffic, according to state media Xinhua. In China, a summons is a common way for the government to issue orders or warnings, and to get feedback from businesses. It is also a means of showing the public its desire to pass certain programmes.
“We believe in healthy play and take the physical and mental health of minors very seriously. We appreciate the guidance and direction from relevant regulators, and will work hard to be in full compliance with all rules relating to youth gambling addiction and content regulation,” Tencent said in a statement.
A crackdown on “unhealthy cultures”
Authorities have also urged companies to “resolutely resist unhealthy cultures”, including the worship of money and “boys love“- a literary genre popular in China that depicts romantic relationships between men, as well as “sissy pants”, a pejorative term used in China to describe effeminate men, a group that has already been attacked by China’s TV watchdog – he said celebrities who sport this style should be banned from the screens.
Much like a state media article that called video games “spiritual opiumTriggering a sell-off at Chinese game companies last month, the announced suspension and previous summonses have also raised fears among investors that China is adopting even more drastic measures for the games sector. Tencent and Netease, whose shares plunged 8.5% and 11% in Hong Kong today, lose about 60 billion dollars in combined market value, according to Bloomberg.
Update: An earlier version of this story, citing a report from the South China Morning Post (SCMP), said that China has suspended approvals for new games. The SCMP clarified that authorities were instead slowing down the process, according to its sources, and our article has been edited to reflect that.