Chinese giant NetEase Games has for the first time moved to limit the amount of time China’s youth spend playing its games, highlighting the increased scrutiny of the country’s gaming sector.
Gaming companies have faced greater oversight for their alleged involvement in childhood gaming addiction. Last year, state mouthpiece the People’s Daily called Tencent’s online multiplayer title “Honour of Kings” poison, saying greater regulation of social games is needed.
NetEase will limit users 12-years-old and under to one hour of gameplay a day from Monday to Fridays, and two hours on Saturdays and Sundays, the company said in a statement. Gamers between the ages of 13 and 18 will be permitted to play two hours on weekdays and three hours on weekends.
NetEase will also ban underage players from logging on between 9:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m every day. The system will initially be applied to 15 of its mobile games including “Fantasy Westward Journey” and “Knives Out,” starting this month.
Any unregistered users who have not undergone real-name verification will be limited to a two-hour game trial, not exceeding three games. The company is planning to confirm its user data against police records for the purpose of verification, a company spokesperson told TechNode.
The company will also give parents greater control over their children’s gaming habits through its NetEase Parenting Care platform. The feature allows caregivers to get information about playing time and in-app purchases, as well as apply for their children to be banned from playing certain games.
The move follows NetEase rival Tencent’s rollout of a series of features including limits on playing times last year. The company implemented features including real-name verification and facial recognition to impose the restrictions. Tencent vowed to expand its real-name verification system to all of its games during 2019, requiring its users to confirm their identities against a police database.
China’s gaming industry was plagued by a nine-month moratorium on issuing new game licenses. Approvals resumed in late December. However, the sector saw its slowest first-half revenue growth in 10 years, with more than 40% of Chinese-listed gaming companies seeing a year-on-year decrease in profit during the first three-quarters of 2018.
Additional reporting by Jill Shen