Underage gamers in China have found a way to circumvent the strictest gameplay limitations in the world. In late August, the Chinese government restricted all players under the age of 18 to three hours of playtime per week—8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Fridays, weekends, and public holidays. But a simple way of bypassing the login requirements is easily accessible through major e-commerce sites.
A cottage industry has cropped up to aid minors in their quest to circumvent restrictions. KrASIA found hundreds of merchants on Taobao that claimed they rented out accounts linked with adult IDs for a variety of popular games. An example is Honor of Kings, the most popular multiplayer online battle arena game in China, and Tencent’s top-grossing title. Hourly charges were between RMB 2 and RMB 40 or USD 0.30 to USD 6.20.
At the moment, the top ten merchants offering this type of service each draw more than 20,000 monthly transactions. One customer service representative told KrASIA that their online shop did not provide services to minors.
However, Chinese officials take a different view. Representatives of Tencent, NetEase, and other major video game companies met with Chinese regulators on Wednesday. They deliberated on the matter of platforms that rent out and transfer game accounts, as well as minors’ expenditures on virtual gifts for livestreamers.
Officials from the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party, the National Press and Publication Administration, the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism were present at the meeting. The regulators compelled the companies to take further action and be fully compliant with gaming-related regulations, according to a report by Xinhua.
In particular, the officials reaffirmed that video game companies should “fully acknowledge the importance and urgency of protecting minors from video games addiction.” They also said the firms must implement recently introduced regulations in a workable way. Gaming companies were also asked to deter game account lending and transfer services that could be utilized by minors to skirt the rules.
Tencent Games said in a Weibo post on Monday that the game account rental business seriously undermines real-name registration systems and protection mechanisms for minors. Tencent has sued or issued letters to more than 20 account trading platforms, demanding the cessation of their services.
In a statement issued on Thursday, NetEase said it will scrutinize the content of its game titles, adhere to the “correct” social values, develop morally righteous games, and guide minors to play games in a healthy manner.