Tencent will let minors play Honor of Kings only for an hour on weekdays
The Chinese government recognized gaming to be potentially addictive in 2008 and has never shied away from imposing restrictions that limited screen time. This time around, it isn't the government doing it, though. Industry Behemoth Tencent has now imposed further restrictions on its flagship title: Honor of Kings. Tencent (and the Chinese government) already have the infrastructure to implement these rules as it requires players to input their state-issued identification at registration.
Thankfully, the limits mentioned above only apply to children under 18, who will be permitted to play Honor of Kings for one hour on a weekday and two hours on weekends. Earlier regulations prohibited players under 12 from spending any real-world money on in-app purchases. People between 12 and 16 can spend up to RMB 200 (US$31) a month, and those between 16 and 18 have that limited to RMB 400 (US$62). Lastly, all minors will be disallowed from playing Honor of Kings between 10 PM and 8 AM.
Tencent's decision to seemingly restrict its player base from accessing content might seem counterproductive, but it comes in the face of immense pressure from regulatory authorities. The Chinese government went as far as calling video games 'spiritual opium', but it backtracked shortly after. Therefore, we can expect to see other companies such as NetEase, Perfect World, and YY impose similar restrictions on some titles.
This knee-jerk response to what was little more than a slip-up by a state-owned news organization is unlikely to translate to any real-world change. Existing rules already limited minor's screen time to 90 and 180 minutes on weekdays and weekends, respectively. A 30-minute restriction isn't going to magically address a complex issue that has plagued markets worldwide. Lastly, a minor can switch over a new game once they exhaust the 'allocated' playtime. Or they could borrow a smartphone from an adult.
Besides, there is nothing stopping adult gamers from doing as they please, and that's where the real money is at. Tencent reported that less than 6% of the total revenue it generates is from players under 16. Then again, that is not an insignificant amount, as Honor of Kings earned US$2.6 billion via in-app purchases in 2020 only from the Chinese market. It is only second to PUBG Mobile (also owned by Tencent), which has a far higher player count because it is available globally.