Tencent further strengthens spending limits for young gamers amid growing health fears

Move comes amid growing concerns over the impact of gaming addiction on young people

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2018, 9:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2019, 12:00pm

Tencent Holdings, one of China’s biggest technology companies and which generates almost half of its revenue from game operations, is adding further controls to how much young people can spend on its gaming services amid growing concern at home and overseas over the mental health impact of the industry.

The Shenzhen-based company said on Tuesday that it will notify payment account owners whenever an underage QQ account user spends more than 500 yuan (US$75) cumulatively over any period of 30 days on its games, which include the widely-popular titles Honour of Kings and League of Legends . QQ is Tencent’s personal messaging service, with more than 800 million active users.

This follows a previous announcement by Tencent two weeks ago, which said it would send an alert to parents (who are account holders) whenever their children spend over 500 yuan a day.

Tencent to alert parents when kids are spending too much on games

“We hope these measures will help parents be more aware of their children’s [potential] consumption of games as early as possible,” said Tencent in a statement, adding it had set the limits based on user feedback which had indicated 500 yuan per day was too high a ceiling.

Games have become a lightning rod for criticism in China amid growing concerns over gaming addiction among the country’s youth. Last July People’s Daily compared Tencent’s blockbuster game Honour of Kings to “poison”, a move which wiped US$17.5 billion off Hong Kong-listed Tencent’s market value in one day on speculation the central government would intervene and curtail the industry. The World Health Organisation, an agency under the United Nations, in June also classified so-called gaming disorder as a mental health condition.

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Using a dedicated customer service team of 200 people, Tencent identifies users under the age of 18 years based on information from the real-name registration process or from their online behaviour. Payment account holders will be reached through WeChat, Tencent’s messaging app, or via the phone number provided during the account registration process.

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The alert service is currently under trial and the company said it will monitor and modify rules on game spending levels, identification of underage users, and the method of contacting account holders on an ongoing basis.

Following the earlier criticism of Honour of Kings, Tencent CEO Pony Ma Huateng said the company would set a daily time limit of one hour for players under the age of 12, and they would not be able to log into the game after 9pm.