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Tencent to pilot facial recognition checks in Honour of Kings
Tencent’s popular mobile multiplayer hit “Honour of Kings” (known as “Arena of Valor” outside of China) is about to get another update to its supervision system, this one more imposing than the last.
Starting today (September 29), new players in Shenzhen and Beijing will be selected at random to undergo video facial recognition authentication as part of a pilot aimed at testing the viability of widespread use.
Earlier this month, the company began enforcing real name verification for all players. The upgrade connected the platform to China’s public security database, which the company claimed would allow it to better enforce the rules and limit the amount of time minors can spend playing.
The system stops those who do not verify their identity from logging in. Children under 12 years old are limited to playing one hour a day between 8 am and 9 pm. Minors over 12 are restricted to two hours a day. Individuals awaiting approval are subject to the same limits imposed on those under 12 years old.
The company claims the facial verification pilot is attempting to further increase its ability to crack down on excessive gaming by minors. Now, visual information captured by a user will be compared to government-held identity data.
Tencent has faced increased scrutiny in the past few months for its perceived contribution towards gaming addiction among China’s youth. In June, Party mouthpiece People’s Daily blasted the company, referring to “Honour of Kings” as “poison” and said greater regulation of social games is needed.
Tencent also imposed spending limits within games. It introduced a feature in July that notifies account holders when a suspected minor’s in-game spending reaches RMB 500 a month, also creating greater parental controls.
But increased oversight of game publishers is not limited to Tencent. The Communist Party’s propaganda department has taken over licensing new online games. As a result, approvals of new titles have slowed amid the restructuring, with no new licenses being approved in the past six months.
The industry as a whole has suffered financially as a result. This first half of this year saw the industry’s slowest growth in ten years. Tencent was not immune to the slowdown. Its second-quarter profits fell for the first time since 2005, in part, due to the removal of popular titles from its distribution platforms. The company was forced to stop selling blockbuster “Monster Hunter: World” from its WeGame platform—wiping out $15 billion from its market value— and shut down its popular poker game “Texas Hold’Em”.