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China bans children from playing online games for more than three hours a week, the most severe restriction to date on the gaming industry as Chinese regulators continue to crack down on the tech industry.
Minors in China can only play between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Fridays, weekends and holidays from September 1, according to a notice from the National Press and Publications Administration.
This limits games to three hours a week for most weeks of the year, up from a previous restriction set in 2019 that allowed minors to play games for an hour and a half a day and three hours on holidays.
The new regulations affect some of China’s biggest tech companies, including gaming giant Tencent, whose online multiplayer game Honor of Kings is hugely popular around the world, as well as gaming company NetEase.
Tencent’s share price closed 0.6% lower at HK $ 465.80 on Monday ahead of the regulator’s announcement. Its market cap of $ 573 billion is down more than $ 300 billion from its February high, a drop equal to more than the total value of Nike Inc. or Pfizer Inc.
New York-listed NetEase stock was down about 9% when the market opened.
The restrictions on gaming are part of an ongoing crackdown on tech companies, as tech companies – many of which provide ubiquitous messaging, payment and gaming services – could have a disproportionate influence on society.
Earlier this month, Tencent announced that it would limit play time for minors to one hour per day and two hours during holidays, and prohibit children under 12 from making in-game purchases. .
The company took to the sidewalks hours after a state-affiliated newspaper criticized the gambling industry and called the games “spiritual opium.”
Regulators said in Monday’s notice they would tighten oversight and increase the frequency of inspections of online gaming companies to ensure they are strictly complying with regulations.
In recent months, Chinese authorities have targeted e-commerce and online education and put in place new regulations to tackle anti-competitive behavior after years of rapid growth in the tech sector.
Authorities last month banned companies that tutor basic school subjects from making a profit, wiping out billions in market value for online education companies such as TAL Education and Gaotu Techedu.