Chinese gaming giant Tencent Holdings has expanded its anti-addiction measures for minors to mini games on its multipurpose app WeChat as it continues to come under pressure from authorities to implement tighter controls.
The Shenzhen-based conglomerate has integrated mini games " which run within the ubiquitous WeChat without users having to download them separately " with its gaming "health system", it announced in a statement posted on WeChat on Tuesday.
As the largest gaming company in China and the world by revenue, Tencent has come under particular scrutiny from Chinese regulators, who have criticised the unhealthy impact of excessive playing of video games on the young and pushed hard for stricter measures to control the issue in recent years.
Despite efforts to verify minors' identities including checking their national ID numbers and facial recognition, Tencent games were among those that failed to adequately limit access to underage gamers, a report from the China Consumer Association found in May last year.
The issue has been seen by analysts as a headwind for the company, limiting potential profitability and exposing the company to further regulatory scrutiny by Beijing.
Under the new measures, users of WeChat mini games will be required to verify their real names and identities against police databases, allowing the company to identify users who are minors and apply restrictions to their playing time and in-game spending, Tencent said in the Tuesday statement.
Those under 18 will not be allowed to log onto games from 10pm to 8am, and will be limited to a maximum playing time of 1.5 hours per day except for public holidays, when they can play for up to three hours a day.
The system will also limit in-game expenditure by minors, barring children under the age of eight from spending money on games and capping spending by those aged between eight and 18 to between 200 and 400 yuan (US$28 to US$56) per month, depending on their age.
In addition, parents can manage the time and money their children can spend on the mini games, and apply for refunds for "irrational expenditure" on games by their kids.
Tencent started to limit gameplay time for young users in 2017 on its blockbuster game Honour of Kings and launched its real-name verification system in 2018.
After the introduction of gameplay time limits on Honour of Kings, the amount of time minors spent on the game dropped by 52.3 per cent in a year compared to a peak in 2017, according to Tencent.
As of a statement in December last year, Tencent's anti-addiction system covered 116 mobile games and 31 PC games, and the company had removed 32 games because they could not be integrated within the system due to technical reasons.
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