China Limits Kids to Playing Online Games to 1 Designated Hour, 3 Times a Week

Children in China can now only play online games for three hours every week across three days, marking the most severe regulation yet for the game industry in the country, the Associated Press reported. The move comes amid a wider crackdown on the technology industry from Chinese regulators.

Under the new restrictions, minors in China can only play online games from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting Sept. 1, according to a notice issued by the National Press and Publication Administration. Kids will also be allowed to play games during the set time on public holidays.

The rules effectively cap weekly online gameplay for minors to three hours throughout most of the year. The previous regulation on gaming, enacted in 2019, permitted kids to play games for an hour and a half every day, while three hours were allotted on public holidays, the AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

China Limites Online Gaming
China is banning children from playing online games for more than three hours a week, the harshest restriction so far on the game industry as Chinese regulators continue cracking down on the technology sector. A child plays with a toy gun during a promotion for online games in Beijing on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020. Ng Han Guan/AP Photo

The new regulation affects some of China's largest technology companies, including gaming giant Tencent, whose Honor of Kings online multiplayer game is hugely popular globally, as well as gaming company NetEase.

Tencent's stock price closed down 0.6 percent at 465.80 Hong Kong dollars on Monday ahead of the regulator's announcement. Its market capitalization of $573 billion is down more than $300 billion from its February peak, a decline equal to more than the total value of Nike Inc. or Pfizer Inc.

New York-listed NetEase's stock was down about 9 percent at the market's open.

The gaming restrictions are part of an ongoing crackdown on technology companies, amid concerns that technology firms — many of which provide ubiquitous messaging, payments and gaming services — may have an outsized influence on society.

Earlier this month, Tencent said it would limit gaming time for minors to an hour a day and two hours during holidays, as well as ban children under the age of 12 from making in-game purchases.

The company issued the curbs hours after a state-affiliated newspaper criticized the gaming industry and called games "spiritual opium."

Regulators said in Monday's notice that they would strengthen supervision and increase the frequency of inspections of online game companies to ensure that they follow the regulations closely.

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

Last month, authorities banned companies that provide tutoring in core school subjects from making a profit, wiping out billions in market value from online education companies such as TAL Education and Gaotu Techedu.

Online Gaming Restricted for Children
Kids in China can only play online games between 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays, weekends and on public holidays starting Sept. 1. A child stands near a promotion event for Tencent in Beijing on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. Ng Han Guan/AP Photo