The Chinese government has ordered online gaming companies to further reduce services aimed at gamers aged under 18, following a measure that seeks to curb “youth video game addiction.”
Under the new rule imposed by the Chinese video game regulator, minors can only play for one hour on Fridays, weekends, and holidays, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The National Press and Publications Administration published the measure’s details, explaining that young users could only play video games from 8pm to 9pm local time on those days.
Online gaming companies had been asked to prevent children from playing outside such hours and to implement real-name verification systems, the regulator added.
The regulator, which oversees the video game market in China, also said authorities would inspect online gaming companies more frequently to verify they are meeting time limits.
It previously stipulated that children could play only 90 minutes a day, with three hours on holidays.
But it said new regulations’ purpose is to “effectively protect the physical and mental health of minors,” the regulator added.
Furthermore, it urged gaming companies in China to “always prioritize the social good and actively respond to societal concerns.”
The move came shortly after a state media outlet called online gaming a “spiritual opium.”
A month before authorities announced the latest restrictions, the state-run Economic Information Daily published an article stating that many teenagers had become addicted to online games.
The article said that video games addiction was having a negative impact on them. Such comments caused significant drops in shares’ value for some of the country’s largest video game companies.
There were also reports of children using adult IDs to circumvent gaming rules.
In response, Chinese video game giant Tencent said in July that it would implement facial recognition technology to prevent children from playing after hours.
It is not the first time that Chinese authorities have intervened in the nation’s online gambling industry.
The government halted the issuance of video game licenses for more than eight months in 2018, prompting a sell-off among investors of Chinese companies offering gaming services.
Chinese regulator’s Monday announcement is expected to impact the national gaming market.