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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 CEO MyGamez

Mikael is native of Finland and has been working and doing business in China since 2004. He started his China career with Finpro, Finland Trade Center, assisting Finnish ICT companies in China market. In 2008 he founded his first company, Posse Ltd, which has since provided numerous leading European handset and mobile VAS related companies with market entry, business development, and sales representative services.

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 CEO The Gentlebros

Desmond Wong is the CEO, artist and designer and 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 CEO GameBake

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 Vice President EMEA Admix

Positive, supportive leader. Advertising, media & digital services expert. Extensive experience in planning and executing growth strategies across regions. Proven ability to build diverse, engaged teams that develop new business, retain & grow existing partnerships, and strengthen relationships with key clients & internal stakeholders.

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 CEO Storms Publishing

David is currently the CEO of Storms, a gaming startup invested in by Singtel, AIS & SKT, with a focus on game publishing and an instant gaming platform.

David was recently Head of Business Development - Google Play Apps and Games and was responsible for acquiring, driving and building a pipeline of Android apps and games in SEA & Australia. Additionally, David led the Google Play Start-Up program in SEA & ANZ working closely with High Potential Startups and VCs in the region.

David currently advises & mentors Startups in the region through various programs including 500 Startups, Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Singapore Management University, Unilever Foundry SEAA, Antler, Found 8, Landing Pad, Skala & Fishburners Australia. David is also an experienced Angel Investor.

Prior to Google, David was GM of Global Developer Alliances with Vserv and headed developer & publisher partnerships globally, engaging with mobile app developers/publishers and spearheading multiple developer/publisher initiatives. He was part of the Global Senior Leadership Team and reported to the CEO/Co-Founder.

David has spent over 6 years at Nokia, with the last role being that of Head of Ecosystem & Developer Experience (EDX) - Mobile Apps Monetisation. Additionally, David has over 10 years of global and Southeast Asian experience in the telecommunications industry, ranging from strategic to commercial roles at Vodafone, Orange, Sing-Tel Optus and Capgemini.

He is a Australian Chartered Accountant and holds an MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management (UNSW)

Skills/Experience

  • Business Development - Mobile Apps & Games
  • Entrepreneurship/Start Ups
  • Mobile Advertising
  • Go-To-Market/Launch of Internet Services
  • Sales & Strategy
  • Mobile Services / Ecosystems expertise
  • Team management

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 Co-founder & Head of Esports Epic Global

Masters educated, marketing, communication and esports business professional with 21 years’ experience of account management, business development, esports, gaming and marketing. Proactive leader. Occasional lecturer on digital trends and use of data with UCD, Carlow IT & UL. Start-up mentor and advisor & judge for Stadia Ventures (US venture fund for sports tech). Board member: Ireland esports, One Zero and Northern Ireland Sport Forum. Twice published author, Gaffers (2010) and Running through Walls (2012)

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 Vice President of Global Partnerships Admix

A dynamic leader in partnership, commercialization, incentives and sales leadership, enterprise technology, and start up incubation. In addition to his more than a decade at Google where he leads Google's largest relationship globally, he has played a pivotal role in the launch of 3 startups, is on the advisory board of two hardware companies, and is a Board member of the Chosen Family Law Center.

Over the course of his career he has found a new use for an existing technology that has lead to 9 figures in increment revenue, launched a nutraceutical brand, lead competitive reviews and strategy leading to a major market share shift, negotiated and executed more than 400 partnership contracts all around the world, lead a close team of strong ICs as well as a global virtual team in the hundreds, and kept his calm while doing it.

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 Co-founder Reality Gaming Group

I’ve worked in the technology sector forever! Starting back in the early days of video gaming, then mobile apps and more recently co-founding Reality Gaming Group which creates games that utilise blockchain technology. These games allow players to actually own the in-game items they buy, you can trade or sell them to friends or use them in other games. This is only possible due to the blockchain and will be a 'game-changer' for players and game developers creating a new $100bn 'collectibles' market.

I am an entrepreneur and investor and have been involved in many start ups. I have been raised over $15m in VC funding, launched two (over subscribed) crowdfunding campaigns and closed a successful ICO (Initial Coin Offering). I co-founded Reality Gaming Group in 2017, and continue to run TeePee Games, which launched the award-winning social network for gamers called GamesGRABR. The company now offers a complete SaaS business allowing brands, retailers and publishers the ability to launch their own social networks, connecting them directly to their customers.

Previously I co-founded Player X a mobile games publisher and distributor which I successfully sold to Spanish mobile content company Zed in 2009.

Prior to Player X I joined Digital Bridges (now I-Play) and was instrumental in launching mobile phone games into the operators and carriers around the world - way before App stores were even invented!

In 2009 I co-founded an executive networking event called the Centurions which is aimed at the digital entertainment industry and we now hold events all over the world, past events have been in London, Istanbul, Munich and New York with new events planned for Singapore and Australia.

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 Creative Marketing Manager Exient

Working on The Next Great American Novel as a British citizen takes time, so it’s a good thing that effective storytelling is integral to being a creative and content marketing specialist; whether working as strategic project manager and data-driven marketer or on the flipside, as a content generator and scrappy-yet-eternally-lovable brand champion.

As a hands-on Digital Marketer, I have experience throughout the marketing mix, working closely with stakeholders and directors to direct and fulfill marketing campaigns to audiences worldwide across both b2b and b2c channel; including product launches, user acquisition, press relations, brand positioning, growth tracking, creative design, market research, re-engagement sprints, web and social management and event management.

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?


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