China has temporarily suspended approval of all new online games in an attempt to curb gambling addiction among young people, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday, citing people with knowledge of the matter.
The decision was revealed at a meeting between Chinese officials and industry giants Tencent and NetEase, the report said, adding that it was unclear how long the suspension would last.
Beijing called on game companies such as Tencent and NetEase on Wednesday.
Tencent declined to comment. NetEase did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
China acted in August to ban under-18s from playing video games for more than three hours a week, saying it was necessary to curb the growing addiction to what has been described as “spiritual opium.”
The new rules are part of a major shift by Beijing to tighten control over its society and key sectors of its economy, including technology, education and property, after years of runaway growth.
The restrictions, which apply to any device, including phones, are a blow to the global gaming industry that serves tens of millions of young players in the world’s most lucrative market.
They limit under-18s to playing one hour a day – 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm – only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. They can also play for an hour at the same time on holidays.
The National Press and Publication Administration’s (NPPA) regulator’s rules coincide with Beijing’s broader crackdown on China’s tech giants such as Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings.
© Thomson Reuters 2021