New laws passed by regulators in China have further restricted the amount of time that minors in the country may spend playing online video games, following a state media article calling the activity "spiritual opium". Considering the impact of the Chinese market on the gaming industry in recent years, the repercussions will be felt by companies globally.
The Chinese state media announced the new regulations on Monday, which changed the previous limit of 1.5 hours of online game time almost every day to the much stricter 1 hour on each of Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays. The law affects all minors, and companies like Tencent and NetEase are being forced to implement verification systems to uphold it.
This includes real-name verification for all players, and additional layers of security. Not only is the amount of time limited, but the window of that one hour of playtime is also fixed - minors can only game between 20:00 and 21:00. No online gaming services of any kind, including trials or demos, can be provided without logging in via the National Press and Publication Administration's online game anti-addiction real-name verification system.
State media also referred to increased frequency and intensity of inspections to ensure that these new rules are upheld, putting the pressure on game companies operating in the country to ensure that they limit their services to minors within the new timeframe.
These new restrictions, and the old ones, come during a time where major Chinese media corporations like Tencent have been aggressively ramping up foreign investment in an attempt to secure lines of revenue not beholden to the draconian laws of their native country.
These new measures come during a time where online game addiction is being made out by the state media as a major concern in the country, which has led to the passing of previous restrictions as well - now, the laws which already seemed unthinkable in most western nations have only become more strict.
Government regulators have announced alongside these new laws that they will begin to work closely with schools as well as parents throughout the country to curb online gaming addiction. While no gaming restrictions are in place for those above the age of 18, what the state deems excessive gaming can harm one's score in the controversial social credit system.
These measures will likely not only impact revenue for microtransaction and subscription based titles popular in China, but also the revenue of net cafés in the country, which have a major culture associated with them.
Meanwhile, the allure of the Chinese gaming market cannot be denied, with specific focus testing becoming common practice.