Gaming curbs may change – again

Chinese authorities may revise newly-drafted online gaming rules, state media reported, after the announcement of the planned curbs triggered a sell-off in major tech stocks.

The draft restrictions published by Beijing’s media regulator on Friday sent shares in tech giants tumbling and wiped tens of billions of dollars off their value, with industry leader Tencent tanking more than 12% in Hong Kong by the close.

“With regard to the concerns and opinions raised by all parties, the State Press and Publication Administration will study them carefully and further revise and improve them,” state broadcaster CCTV reported on Saturday.

Regulators may change the wording of sections of the draft rules that limit games’ ability to encourage daily logins and wallet top-ups, CCTV said.

Beijing first moved against the gaming sector in 2021 as part of a sprawling crackdown on Big Tech, including a strict cap on the amount of time children could spend playing online. An end to a freeze in gaming licences had raised hopes that the focus on the industry had subsided.

But, in their current form, the draft regulations announced on Friday are aimed at limiting in-game purchases and preventing obsessive gaming behaviour. They also reiterate a ban on “forbidden online game content that endangers national unity” and “endangers national security or harms national reputation and interests”.

Pop-ups warning users of “irrational” playing behaviour would also be introduced.

Since 2021, children under 18 years old have only been allowed to play online between 8pm and 9pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the school term.

Gamers are required to use their ID cards when registering to play online to ensure minors do not lie about their age.

“The largest risk we see is how this draft indicates that China’s government may want to regulate adult gamers spending on video games, in a similar manner to youth gamers,” Daniel Ahmad, director of research at Niko Partners, said.

“Should future policies mirror these stringent measures, the industry could face substantial negative consequences,” he said.

China is the world’s largest gaming market and Tencent is the global leader in the sector in terms of revenue. Friday’s news wiped around US$54bil (RM251bil) off the company’s share value, according to Bloomberg News. — AFP

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