The shares of China’s largest computer game developer, Tencent, lost over 10% on the Hong Kong Exchange, followed by other major gaming developers, amid reports Beijing is prepping to tighten control over the online gaming sector.
Tencent shares fell 10.36% to HK $425.8 ($54.80) in Tuesday’s trading, while two other gaming giants – NetEase and Archosaur Games – plunged even lower, losing 12.3% and 18.5%, respectively. The shares pared some of the losses later in the day, with Tencent clawing back 3% by 8am GMT, but were still trading in the red.
The drop came after Chinese state media slammed online gaming, describing it as “spiritual opium” and “electronic drugs,” in a publication that focused on the harmful influence of computer games on minors. The article, published in Chinese state-run Economic Information Daily, likened online gaming to drug addiction among children, stating it could negatively impact their growth. This was reportedly viewed as a sign that Beijing is looking to tighten regulatory control over game developers, given its recent crackdown on tech companies and after-school tutoring firms. However, the online link to the article was deleted at some stage after it was published, although the story remains in the printed version.
China already has strict regulations regarding gaming. In 2018, Beijing froze new game approvals citing concerns that gaming was harmful to children’s eyesight. The following year, it banned anyone under 18 from playing online games between 10pm and 8am and limited the time they were allowed to play. However, both Tencent and NetEase recently set up measures to protect youngsters, such as mandatory real-name registrations and, in Tencent’s case, a facial recognition feature on smartphones to prove that the gamer is an adult.
Following the publication, Tencent promised to further limit playtime for children on its most popular “Honor of Kings” game (from the current 1.5 hours to 1 hour at a time) and said it plans to eventually make the adjustment to its entire games line-up. It also said it will ban in-game purchases for gamers under 12. The company’s new plan was posted on Tuesday on one of its official WeChat accounts.
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