For many years, the time and money minors spend on video games has been a topic of lengthy discussion in China. Concerned that the ever-growing amount of time minors spend playing video games could negatively impact their academic achievement, the Chinese government is announcing regulations that will limit the ability of children under 18 to play—and make purchases in—games across various platforms.
This is only the latest of China’s actions to regulate video games: earlier in the year they regulated loot box design and banned blood. The enforcement date of the new regulations has yet to be specified but game publishers, developers, and distribution platforms are already putting policies and systems in place in preparation.
Here’s what you need to know now to ensure your game is ready.
What The New Regulations State
On November 5, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of The People's Public of China released a "Notice on Preventing Minors from Indulging in Online Games", proposing the following measures:
1. Player Registration. Players of all ages must register to play online games by providing their real names and national ID numbers. This regulation, which was actually announced last year, will be the foundation for playtime and purchasing restrictions.
2. Playtime Limits. Video game time for minors will be limited to 90 minutes per day and restricted to daytime hours. From 10 pm to 8 am, those under 18 will not be allowed to play any games. On holidays only, the allotted playtime will double to 3 hours.
3. Purchasing Restrictions. In-game purchases will be restricted according to age categories. These purchasing limits will apply per child per company, across all games and platforms. In other words, if a publisher has ten games and a player hits their spending limit in one, they won’t be allowed to make purchases in any other of the company’s games. Here are the spending limits as they apply to each age group:
Ages 0-8: not allowed to use in-game purchases.
Ages 8-16: spending limit of RMB 200 per month and RMB 50 per transaction.
Ages 16-18: spending limit of RMB 400 per month and RMB 100 per transaction.
4. Age Rating System. Though China doesn’t currently have a national game rating system for age-appropriate content, we can soon expect this to change. The government has announced work on a detailed classification framework that will be similar in structure to the ESRB used in the western world, only with more strict restrictions. For example, blood, sex, violence, and gambling will not be permitted in any age group.
5. Caregiver Involvement. The government is calling for parents, teachers, and any relatives or guardians to support the new laws by monitoring the minors in their care and making sure they comply with the regulations.
6. Responsibility of Game Companies. Game developers and publishers will be expected to comply with the regulations, which provincial administrators will monitor and enforce. If China’s regulatory body finds that a game is not in compliance, its license will be revoked and further punishment may result.
How The New Regulations Will Affect Developers
Exactly how the Chinese government will enforce these laws has yet to be announced; however, game companies ranging from app stores and distribution platforms to publishers and developers are already formulating their own policies and systems in preparation for these new regulations.
What has been released so far is a notice about regulations coming in the future. Their materialization will require work on new laws, potential changes to existing ones, policies and systems to identify and monitor minor gamers. The end goal is a cross-platform system that will limit minors’ total video game playtime and spending.
China’s gaming authority will provide clear directives for all publishers and game developers; provincial offices will communicate the first implementation policy. Developers who have already launched games in China will either have to develop their own systems to comply with these new regulations or work with a local partner or third-party to help them with compliance.
At the time of this article’s writing, our team at Yodo1 has already begun designing and developing the systems required to comply with these new regulations and as these new regulations and their enforcement schedules are released, we aim to make these systems available for use by other game developers and publishers to ensure simple and effective compliance so that our partners can focus on making amazing games and trust that their regulatory compliance bases are covered.
To launch your games right, keep them up and running, and secure your revenue in China, get in touch with us today!