BEIJING – China is banning children from playing online games for more than three hours a week, the toughest ban ever on the sports industry as Chinese regulators continue to sabotage the technology sector.
In China, minors can only play games between 8 to 9 p.m. On Fridays, weekends and public holidays from September 1, which was announced by the National Press and Publications Administration.
It limits gaming to three hours a week for most of the year, down from an earlier ban in 2019 that allows minors to play one hour a day and three hours a day on public holidays.
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 and even gaming company NetEase.
Tencent’s share price fell 0.6% on Monday to close at 465.80 Hong Kong dollars ahead of the regulator’s announcement. Its market capitalization of $573 billion is down more than $300 billion from its February peak, a drop by more than the net worth of Nike Inc. or Pfizer Inc.
Shares of NetEase, listed in New York, were down about 9% at the market open.
Gaming restrictions are part of an ongoing crackdown on technology companies, amid concerns that technology companies – which provide ubiquitous messaging, payments and gaming services – could have a major impact on society.
Earlier this month, Tencent said it would limit gaming time to one hour a day for minors, two hours during holidays and ban children under the age of 12 from making in-game purchases.
The company issued the ban hours after a state-affiliated newspaper criticized the gaming industry and called the games the “spiritual opium.”
Regulators said in Monday’s notice that they will strengthen supervision and increase the frequency of inspections of online game companies to ensure they follow the rules closely.
Last month, authorities banned tutoring companies in major school subjects from making billions, destroying billions in market value from online education companies such as TAL Education and Gaotu Techedu.