No video games for Chinese children: the government bans them

The Beijing government limits weekly gaming hours to protect the physical and mental health of minors, but also for other less noble reasons.

The Chinese government wants to protect minors by limiting the hours they spend online playing video games. But perhaps, behind this move, there is also the intention to put a brake on the rampant power of Chinese online platforms such as Tencent and NetEase, with which for years the government has been engaged in a real tug-of-war.

The fact is that the Chinese National Press and Publication Administration has already issued the new rules, Monday, describing them as an attempt to safeguard the physical and mental health of children and adolescents. In practice, these rules translate into a ban on companies offering online gaming services to let unregistered and unverified age users log in. Users under the age of 18 will also be restricted in the days and hours they can access the services. It is estimated that there are around 110 million Chinese minors playing online in China, a high number that also brings a large flow of money into the coffers of gaming platforms. Which, now, are worried.

How much you will be able to play in China

According to the new rules, which come into force today, minors will only be able to access online gaming platforms for one hour a day, between 8 and 9 p.m., both on weekdays and holidays.

This is not the first time that such a limit has been put on video games in China: already in 2019, the National Press and Publication Administration had limited the use of these services to 90 minutes a day. With the new rules, it is possible to expect a decline in the number of underage players.

What's changing for platforms

Gaming platforms have a clear and simple business model, all over the world, including in China: the bulk of earnings come from in-game purchases, i.e. additional items or features bought by players to move forward more smoothly in the game's storyline.

Minors are the weakest link in the chain, because if their parents' credit card is registered on the platform's website or on the game console, they often end up spending large amounts of money without realizing it. However, Tencent, a Chinese online services giant, says only a small percentage of its gaming revenue comes from minors under 16.

The company also said it will adjust to the new restrictions and expects more in the future, but will try to adapt to those as well.

Some Western platforms, such as Apple Arcade, are still not present in China because of the difficulty for developers to make gaming apps comply with China's stringent regulations. If regulations go towards further tightening, then, it is very likely that non-Chinese companies will desist from any attempt to enter the Chinese gaming market altogether.