China has reportedly forbidden children under the age of 18 to play video games for more than three hours a week, according to a Monday Reuters report, in an effort to stop what some Chinese experts are referring to as "spiritual opium."
What are the details?
According to the news agency, the new guidance — published Monday by the National Press and Publication Administration — is part of a "major shift by Beijing to strengthen control over its society and key sectors of its economy, including tech, education, and property, after years of runaway growth."
The restrictions are also said to apply to all electronics devices including phones and will limit children under the age of 18 to playing just one hour per day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
"The rules from the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) regulator coincide with a broader clampdown by Beijing against China's tech giants, such as Alibaba Group ... and Tencent Holdings," the outlet reported.
State-run Xinhua media agency on Monday quoted an NPPA spokesperson as reportedly saying, "Teenagers are the future of our motherland. Protecting the physical and mental health of minors is related to the people's viral interests, and relates to the cultivation of the younger generation in the era of national rejuvenation."
As such, all gaming companies will be prohibited from "providing services to minors in any form" outside of the three hours per week.
The report added that approximately 62.5% of China's minors play games online, and 13.2% of underage mobile users play mobile games for more than two hours per day on working days.
Earlier this month, China's state media described online gaming as "spiritual opium" that threatened to "destroy a generation" and said that the electronics entertainment industry needed better regulation.
"The NPPA regulator told Xinhua it would increase the frequency and intensity of inspections for online gaming companies to ensure they were putting in place time limits and anti-addiction systems," the report added.
Further, the new rules will require online games companies to register gamers "using their real identifications."
Under previous rules, minors under the age of 18 were permitted to play for 90 minutes per day on weekdays and three hours per day on weekends and holidays.
The New York Post reported that the stunning news sent shares of game-makers plummeting after having reportedly "spooked investors."
"New York-traded shares of Chinese computer and mobile game developer NetEase were down 8.8 percent at $84.59 when U.S. markets opened Monday, while shares of more diversified tech giant Tencent fell 2.5 percent to $57.50," the outlet reported.
CNBC notes that the move could cripple the country's gaming giants including Tencent and Netease, and has "wiped billions of dollars of value off of Chinese tech stocks."
Daniel Ahmad, senior analyst at Niko Partners, told the outlet that the new limits will surely lead to a decline in money spent on related gaming.
“There are over 110 million minors that play video games in China today, and we expect the new limits to lead to a decline in the number of players and a reduction in the amount of time and money spent in game by those under 18," Ahmad said. "However, we do not expect the decline in spend to have a significant material impact on the bottom line of game companies given limits on time and spending have already been in place for minors for the past two years. Therefore, we expect a softer impact on overall growth rates as spending among minors was already low."