China’s Tencent imposes controls to tackle gaming addiction among children

Chinese language enterprise & finance updates

Tencent has introduced new restrictions limiting how lengthy minors can play its on-line video games after the Chinese language web group got here below intense strain from state media, which labelled the gaming trade a “religious opium”.

In a social media submit, the corporate mentioned it was introducing the measures after “related authorities” requested better safety of minors in gaming and for firms to hold out their “societal accountability”.

Shares in Tencent, whose on-line games business generated Rmb39.1bn ($6bn) within the first quarter and accounted for 30 per cent of its whole revenues, fell as a lot as 10.8 per cent in Hong Kong earlier than paring losses to be down about 6 per cent following the corporate’s announcement.

The renewed volatility got here after China’s tech shares notched their worst month because the international monetary disaster in July following an unprecedented regulatory campaign towards tech sectors together with schooling, ride-hailing and social media.

Tencent’s new restrictions, which is able to initially apply solely to its flagship title Honor of Kings, will additional cut back the period that minors are allowed to spend gaming every day, prohibiting anybody below the age of 12 from in-game spending and clamp down on minors enjoying on grownup accounts.

Tencent additionally raised three proposals for all the trade together with strengthening methods to tackle gaming addiction and known as for consideration of a whole ban for these youthful than 12.

Line chart of HK$ share price showing Tencent shares dive in the face of Beijing’s tech crackdown

The announcement from the Chinese language web large got here after an article within the Financial Info Each day newspaper, which is run by state information company Xinhua, mentioned on-line video video games had grown into “religious opium price lots of of billions”. One professional warned that “no trade . . . can develop in a manner that destroys a era”.

The article printed on Tuesday morning didn’t mention Tencent by identify however complained of widespread web dependancy amongst China’s youth. It quoted unnamed college students as saying that a few of their classmates spent as many as eight hours a day on Honor of Kings and warned that this “new kind of digital drug” was “advancing by leaps and bounds”.

The traditionally charged comparability, likening Chinese language online game makers to the foreign opium peddlers whose commerce contributed to the disintegration of imperial China, additionally despatched shares of a few of Tencent’s rivals sharply decrease in morning buying and selling.

NetEase and XD dropped as a lot as 15.7 and 21.8 per cent, respectively. China’s video video games market was price $43.1bn in 2020, in keeping with Niko Companions, a analysis agency and consultancy.

The assault by state media on Chinese language tech teams additionally weighed on shares in Shanghai and Shenzhen. These had steadied in latest days following a convention name during which China’s securities regulator sought to reassure international and home monetary teams over Beijing’s relentless crackdown on the sector.

In latest weeks, Beijing has known as for a brand new overseas listings regime, imposed information safety critiques on firms looking for to promote shares overseas, and outlawed the nation’s $100bn private tutoring industry from making earnings. This rendered the sector’s three greatest firms “just about uninvestable”, in keeping with JPMorgan analysts.

The strain from regulators and state media signalled a brand new problem for Tencent, which controls the nation’s ubiquitous WeChat social networking and funds app and had till just lately come by means of the regulatory assault relatively unscathed.

That modified abruptly final week, when the corporate introduced it was halting all user registrations for WeChat because it upgraded its safety know-how to “align with all related legal guidelines and laws”. Tencent’s inventory has dropped greater than 1 / 4 over the previous month.

“The timing of the article definitely raises considerations amongst buyers because of the crackdown we’ve seen just lately [on Chinese tech],” mentioned Daniel Ahmad, a senior analyst at Niko Companions.

However he added that it was not the first time video games had been in comparison with medicine in China. The article’s publication additionally adopted guidelines that got here into impact on June 1 that require firms to confirm gamers’ ages and identities to restrict how a lot time minors spend enjoying.

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