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Mobile Mavens: Reaction to China's new restrictions on children gaming

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Mobile Mavens: Reaction to China's new restrictions on children gaming

The Chinese government has imposed severe restrictions upon the use of videogames by the country's minors (anyone under the age of 18), imposing a one-hour per day limit on gaming, and that only on Fridays, the weekend, and holidays.

While this is a sad day for the country's younger gamers, the impact upon the industry remains to be seen. As one of the world's largest consumers of mobile games, what will the new policy mean for the developers and publishers offering content in the country?

Is the government right to impose such restrictions? Is there a case to be made for such tight control over the nation's youth? Is there an argument to be made for legislating against such a popular pastime?

PocketGamer.biz asked the designers, developers, creators and business leaders from across the mobile games market for their views.

Mikael Leinonen

Mikael Leinonen

CEO at MyGamez

With this draconian-feeling tightening of the children's anti-addiction regulation, the Chinese government is trying to address a real issue that has caused a lot of parental complaints and media attention in the country.

The government is essentially now giving parents the tool to keep their kids out of games if they choose to. Parents may, and we believe many will, still let their kids spend more time playing using their parent's accounts. I mean, one child with two parents and four grandparents - that should be enough ID’s to borrow!

For those who don’t get parental consent, there will surely be a black market of ID numbers emerging and new identification ways might be required in the future if the current ‘name + ID’ is found to be too ineffective.

The anti-addiction system is required for games that have ISBN approval, leaving out a lot of casual and hypercasual games that monetise with ads only.

Kids will still be able to play these games without limitations, so we can expect at least a short-term surge for these games and advertisers figuring out how to smartly target adults only.

Another beneficiary will be the already massively popular short video and streaming platforms like Douyin, BiliBili, Xigua, etc. who are now likely to get an even bigger chunk of adolescents' time. I would be surprised if some usage restrictions are not required for these services in the coming years.

For publishers, these new restrictions aren’t technically hard to implement with the existing government anti-addiction system that all the games have been required to use since the beginning of July 2021.

Still, for a lot of games that don’t target the younger audiences, it will be easier for the publisher simply to set their games k18 and just ban the under-aged players altogether. In short term, a lot of one-star AppStore reviews can be expected from furious teenagers!

Most of the gaming revenues in China come from young adults with spending power, so I don’t expect this new guideline to affect publishers’ business too much, except of course for those games whose main audience is kids and teens. This is just another regulation and life will go on, the market will continue to grow and companies to flourish.

 

Desmond Wong

Desmond Wong

CEO at The Gentlebros

I think that this will definitely have an impact on China as a games market, but how much of an impact is hard to say. For one, this only affects online games, so the plethora of offline games will still be available without any restrictions. We may even see a slight resurgence of offline games gaining popularity because of this.

With regards to whether the rest of the world will follow suit, I don't think that is likely simply because this is a regulation that is immensely hard to enforce. It might be easier to leave the responsibility of restricting gaming to the parents of the children in question.

Michael Hudson

Michael Hudson

CEO at KYLN

These latest curbs on young people's gaming time aren't a huge surprise and won't have a deep or lasting impact on the games market in China. They are however symptomatic of how market conditions for game developers and publishers can change overnight.

This creates a challenge for domestic players such as Tencent and ByteDance, but also for western developers who often need to work with local companies in order to access the huge Chinese audience. There will still be ample opportunities, though, and at least the regulators were kind enough to wait until the summer holidays were over before introducing the new rules!

Alex Faust

Alex Faust

Vice President EMEA at Admix

Limiting screen time for children is a good idea for multiple physical and mental wellbeing reasons (in our house we try to limit 'tech time to 30-45 mins per day). So, whilst the Chinese approach appears very autocratic, the underlying motivations make sense.

Screen addiction is a real thing and is proving to be a major issue. I expect China's gaming market revenues will continue to see strong growth, with the momentum of broadening demographics, more ways to play/pay, and overall adoption more than covering any drag that the under-18 time restrictions may bring (Online Games Market in China was valued $58 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach to $86 billion by 2027)

And yes, maybe this is an idea for other markets to take a serious look at. Whilst gaming is proven to be a positive pass-time for kids (problem-solving skills, reading, visual/spatial skills can all improve through gaming) - moderation is tricky. And I personally feel that the 'social' platforms are much more harmful and need regulation before gaming is the focus of any government intervention.

David Yin

David Yin

CEO at Storms

As a father myself, I could relate to the concerns pertaining to how online games - when they're not being played moderately - can negatively affect minors. Before the ruling came into effect, parents had already been concerned about their children's exposure to inappropriate ad content and game addiction, which naturally led to parents limiting their children's playtime.

It's rather premature to comment on how this announcement will affect China as a gaming market at this point in time. However, what this announcement means to local game producers and studios - especially those in the hypercasual gaming space - is that it is imperative to create even better quality games to thrive in an increasingly competitive gaming landscape.

As we continue to monitor the effectiveness of this measure, there are possibilities of other regions imposing a similar regulation. Game producers and publishers that adopt best practices where they ensure that their operations comply with the established law and regulations should be able to operate their business as usual.

Trev Keane

Trev Keane

Co-founder & Head of Esports at Epic Global

The question that will be asked in other countries is should we now look to impose similar restrictions? In my opinion, the answer is no. We have already seen South Korea reverse a law that banned kids under the age of 16 from playing games for a period after midnight.

Gaming, like all things, is about moderation. Parents need to find a healthy balance with their children. Parents need to be educated about digital activity and understand the risks and benefits of gaming. Too much of anything can be harmful to a developing mind and body. While sport is great for kids and very important, we do hear of the risks of overtraining kids in sport from a young age. So again, balance is important.

Gaming has many positives, it can help kids’ confidence, it helps them develop their networks, and develops teamwork skills. It can also help develop logical thinking, especially as gamers work out strategies in-game. There are strong links between gaming and STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Consoles have emerged as alternative social media platforms. Kids communicate with their friends through gaming and that is important for them, especially given the times we find ourselves in now. The key is balance and education, not restrictions.

Michael Silberberg

Michael Silberberg

Vice President of Global Partnerships at Admix

With the gamification of learning systems and much of social and communal interaction having moved to digital and metaverse platforms, how does one draw the line on systems of benefit versus purely entertainment behind the screen?

Tony Pearce

Tony Pearce

Co-founder at Reality+

If the last 18 months of the pandemic have taught us anything it’s that games are overwhelmingly a force for good – you only need to look at the numerous studies that have highlighted a clear link between playing games and positive mental health while people have been isolated in lockdowns.

So, as a parent myself, I would be very much against setting limits in the UK on how long minors can play games, either online or on their own. As with all forms of over-consumption, we should instead be talking about helping people find a better balance when doing things they enjoy.

Plus, ultimately, regardless of the science, where do you draw the line at which leisure activities need to be time-limited? It’s a particularly heavy-handed approach, especially when education and information are almost certainly the best tools at hand. And who’s responsibility should that be? As always, education should be a joint endeavour between all stakeholders.

Jamie Wotton

Jamie Wotton

Creative Marketing Manager at Exient

Social gaming is the present, and future, of gaming. During the pandemic, we all lacked opportunities for socialisation, and in particular, kids really struggled through virtual schooling.

Videogames provided an escape to turn to and helped build soft skills at a time when it was otherwise impossible - allowing for more time spent with friends, improving communication and team-building, and ultimately creating positive memories during a difficult time.

Wouldn't it be a shame to lose all those positive outcomes by having similar limits placed on game time in the UK?