Tencent Limits Gaming Time for Minors After Criticism

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By Adedapo Adesanya

China’s biggest gaming company, Tencent Holdings, will limit gaming time for minors and ban children under age 12 from making in-game purchases following a critique from the Chinese government.

On Tuesday, an article published by the Economic Information Daily, a newspaper affiliated with China’s official Xinhua News Agency called games “spiritual opium” and this led to a more than 10 per cent plunge in Tencent’s stocks.

Although the article was later removed, the damage was done as the company lost $60 billion in market value.

The newspaper article named Tencent’s wildly popular Honour of Kings game as one that minors were addicted to, and cited a student as saying that some played the game for eight hours a day. The online article was removed hours later.

Spiritual opium has grown into an industry worth hundreds of billions,” the newspaper said, adding that no industry should be allowed to develop in a manner that will “destroy a generation.”

“Society has come to recognise the harm caused by online gaming and it is often referred to as opium for the mind or electronic drugs,” parts of the article added.

Parents quoted in the article spoke of children playing the game for seven hours a day, skipping breakfast to buy games and their grades plummeting.

In response, Tencent said it will now limit gaming time for minors to one hour a day, and two hours a day during holidays.

Children under age 12 will also be prohibited from making purchases within the game, the company said.

Under Chinese law, users under age 18 can play online games for a maximum of one and a half hours a day, and three hours during holidays.

Tencent also called for the industry to control gaming time for minors and discuss the possibility of banning those younger than 12 from playing games.

The critique of the gaming industry sparked a selloff of stocks in Chinese gaming companies including NetEase amid fears that the gaming industry could be the next to experience a clampdown.

Chinese authorities in recent months have targeted e-commerce and online education, implementing new regulations to curb anti-competitive behaviour after years of rapid growth in the technology sector.

In July, the Chinese government also banned companies that provide tutoring in core school subjects from turning a profit, wiping out billions in market value from online education companies such as TAL Education and Gaotu Techedu.

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