HONG KONG (AP) – China’s largest games company Tencent Holdings on Tuesday said it will limit play time for minors and ban children under 12 from in-game purchases after a state media article titled “Spiritual Opium”.
Tencent’s pledge to limit games for minors came hours after the company’s shares fell 11% following a review published by the Economic Information Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the agency. Chinese official press release Xinhua.
The newspaper article named Tencent’s hugely popular Honor of Kings game as a game miners were addicted to, and quoted a student as saying some played the game for eight hours a day. The online article was deleted a few hours later.
“‘Spiritual opium’ has become an industry worth hundreds of billions,” the newspaper said, adding that no industry should be allowed to develop in a way that “will destroy a generation.”
On Tuesday, Tencent said in a statement that it would limit play time for minors to one hour per day and two hours per day during the holidays. Children under 12 will also be prohibited from making in-game purchases, the company said.
Under Chinese law, users under the age of 18 can play online games for up to an hour and a half per day and three hours during holidays.
Tencent also called on the industry to monitor play time for minors and discuss the possibility of banning people under 12 from playing games.
It was not clear whether Tencent issued the restrictions in light of the article. The company did not immediately comment.
Criticism of the gaming industry has sparked a sell-off in shares of Chinese gaming companies, including NetEase, as the gaming industry could be the next to face a crackdown.
In recent months, Chinese authorities have targeted e-commerce and online education, implementing 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.
“Obviously, there is great concern about the policy uncertainty, because it’s not just about online education, it’s also about data security and now mobile games,” said Kenny Wen, Wealth Management Strategist at Everbright Sun Hung Kai.
“The future will therefore be very uncertain, it is difficult to give a fair assessment of these stocks and investors will take a wait-and-see approach and be relatively cautious in this sector because we do not know what will happen next.”
Tencent’s share price closed 6.11% lower at HK $ 446 on Tuesday.