China has introduced new restrictions from September the 1st that restrict online gaming among teens under the age of 18. Teens are not allowed to play games online between Monday to Thursday. Between Friday to Sunday, children will only be allowed to play games for one hour a day between 8.00 and 9.00 PM.
In recent months state-run media has described video games as “spiritual-opium”. To communicate how seriously the government is taking these new rules, regulators summoned the representatives from Tencent Holding and NetEase, some of the biggest game makers in the world, to discuss the new restrictions and remind them how important it is for them to comply.
China’s continued crackdown on tech
This is the latest move by the Chinese government to crack down on the biggest tech companies in the country. From new regulations on the handling of private data to actions being taken against corporations accused of anticompetitive practices. Recent reports also suggest that the Chinese government is also working on proposals that would force companies like TikTok, who use algorithms to make content recommendations, to make those algorithms more transparent.
What does this mean for the Chinese gaming industry?
Online gaming has become a part of Chinese culture. About 97% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 participate in online gaming in some way. According to a survey, as of January 2021, those over the age of 18 in China played an average of 12.39 hours of games per week. The new regulations would reduce interest in games by younger audiences and make access to games harder. However, it is unlikely the gaming industry will go anywhere anytime soon in the nation.
The esports industry in China would be hurt the most by the new regulations. Prior to the restriction, China used to be the largest market for esports. Esports has around 400 million fans and viewers in the country. Many professional gamers who participate in China’s esports started gaming professionally when they were as young as 14 or 15. The new regulations would make a career in professional gaming less attractive. Online the backlash from teens against the new regulations has been quite strong. Some wonder if the ban on games will impact the creativity of young individuals, while others lament about how they will ‘relax’ moving forward.
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1. Sep 2021, M. Standaert, “Will teen gaming clampdown deal a knockout to China’s esports?”, Al Jazeera, [available online] available from: https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2021/9/10/will-teen-gaming-clampdown-deal-china-esports-a-technical-ko [accessed Sep 2021]
2. Sep 2021, “Can China really make kids stop playing video games?”, Mint, [available online] available from: https://www.livemint.com/technology/tech-news/bidens-new-vaccine-mandates-what-do-they-do-and-whom-do-they-affect-11631333088570.html [accessed Sep 2021]