Sunday, 2024 July 21

Daily Digest | The game’s up for young players in China

Hi, it’s AJ here.

When China enacted policies to curb video game screen time for the nation’s young people in November 2019, little changed. In short, ineffective implementation and enforcement rendered the rules impotent.

Minors aged under 18 were able to circumvent the measures, as the restrictions were only applied to account holders. This meant kids could skirt the limits by registering under a parent’s name or playing on accounts held by older family members or friends.

Gamers continued to be owned and chicken dinners were had—until this week, when Tencent, the world’s largest video game publisher, released new security functions that use facial recognition to detect minors flouting the regulations. Now, the caps may actually cap game time for children at 90 minutes on weekdays, and three hours on weekends and holidays. Young gamers are also banned from playing between 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. each day.

The facial recognition technology can discern between living humans and other images, meaning kids can’t use a portrait of a parent to bypass the security feature. Failure to submit to the face scan when prompted gets users booted offline.

The move from Tencent comes as the company’s gaming business is feeling the pressure from regulators. China’s State Administration for Market Regulation recently blocked a Tencent-orchestrated merger between Douyu and Huya, the country’s two largest Twitch-analogs for game livestreaming.

The deal was set to close by July 1 to create an industry titan worth around USD 10 billion with 300 million users. Instead, Tencent is beefing up its compliance with government regulation, hoping that further antitrust investigations will blow over.

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