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Chinese game publishers are taking additional steps to combat gaming addiction among minors after regulators noted that gaming addiction is an area for games companies to focus on this year. Gaming addiction among minors has been a topic of discussion within the Chinese games industry for over a decade. A policy introduced in 2007 required PC online game operators to regulate the amount of time that minors could play online, as well as introduce a real name registration system to confirm the identity of each user and apply the restrictions If required.
Tencent and NetEase were some of the first companies to introduce anti addiction systems in their PC games, but as the mobile game market started to take off, none of these restrictions were present in the company’s mobile titles. In fact, the gaming regulator at the time stated in 2014 that an anti-addiction system was not a requirement for mobile games. In August 2018 the Ministry of Education (MoE) issued a notice that recommended the strengthening of anti-addiction systems for both PC online and mobile games.
Since the MoE’s notice in August 2018, both Tencent and NetEase have taken additional steps to strengthen their anti-addiction systems and introduce them to mobile games. In September 2018, Tencent introduced an upgraded version of its real name registration system known as a real name identification system. This new system will require users to register with their real name and ID details which will then be checked in real time against a national citizen database provided by the Ministry of Police Security. The system would then check if the player is under 18 and if they are would apply the anti-addiction system to that account. The system originally applied only to Honor of Kings but is now being rolled out to all of its games in 2019, including WeChat games. As of the end of January there are 31 Tencent mobile games that have an anti-addiction system.
NetEase has followed suit and also introduced its own anti addiction system for mobile games this month. The system will be present in 15 of its top mobile games including Fantasy Westward Journey, Knives out and Onmyoji. Similar to Tencent’s system, the anti-addiction system from NetEase is based on a real name identification system that identifies players under 18 and limits the amount of time that they can spend in game each day. Players under 12 are limited to one hour of gameplay each day whilst players between the age of 13 and 18 are limited to two hours of gameplay each day. The anti-addiction system also has a curfew function that bans minors from playing between the hours of 9:30pm and 8:30am. Parents can also access an app that allows them to monitor and track their child’s playtime.
Other Chinese publishers such as Shanda, Perfect World and 37 Interactive have already stated that they are working on their own anti addiction systems that will be introduced in the future. We believe that anti addiction systems in mobile games to combat gaming addiction among minors will became an important part of the Chinese games industry, just as it is for PC Online games right now.
The introduction of a new games regulator last year, which is under the direct control of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCPPD), is one of the main reasons behind the introduction of anti-addiction systems in mobile games. Whilst this limits the amount of time and spend among players under 18, we note that minors account for a small percentage of total revenue and therefore do not expect this to significantly impact the revenues of game publishers in China.