China’s Tencent will soon require gamers to prove their ages and identities against police records, according to a new official statement yesterday. Under the new system, users will need to register their Chinese national IDs in order to play any games from Tencent.
Ten mobile games will get the new verification system by the end of the year, and all games offered by Tencent, including PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and League of Legends, will get the system by 2019.
Tencent has been criticized by state-run People’s Daily, which called Arena of Valor “poison,” after reports that students were ditching their homework to play the mobile game. Arena of Valor’s appeal was evident while I was in China; I witnessed young people at restaurants avidly playing the game while their friends and dates looked on in boredom.
Tencent has also faced direct regulatory pressure this summer, after President Xi Jinping pointed out that too many children were nearsighted and said the government was taking action. Beijing officially ruled to ban new games, cementing an unofficial pause that started back in March, costing Tencent up to $1.5 billion in lost revenue as it was unable to launch games it had been developing.
Preteen gamers can’t play more than an hour a day and have to stop by 9PM
In September, Tencent imposed the new verification system on Arena of Valor and created a feature that blurs the screen if minors look too closely at it. The new system simply enforces rules that Tencent had in place since last year: barring gamers who are 12 and under from playing more than an hour a day and establishing a curfew of 9PM. Those who are 13 to 18 can play up to two hours a day. Still, the system won’t prevent minors from borrowing the phones of their parents and other adults.
While Tencent has taken measures to curb video game addiction in the past, today’s announcement is the biggest restriction it’s ever imposed. China has nearly 600 million mobile gamers, and as the country’s biggest tech company, Tencent offers nearly 100 mobile titles and dozens on PC. This means Tencent could have to check hundreds of millions of players with its new system.