,Tencent broached the possibility of the industry banning games altogether for those under the age of 12, without elaborating. — Reuters
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Tencent Holdings Ltd led a stocks rout after Chinese state media decried the “spiritual opium” of games, prompting the company to broach a ban for kids and triggering fears Beijing will set its sights next on the world’s largest gaming arena.
China’s most valuable corporation fell as much as 11% after an outlet run by the Xinhua News Agency published a blistering critique of their industry. The Economic Information Daily cited a student as saying some schoolmates played Tencent’s Honor Of Kings – one of its most popular titles – eight hours a day and called for stricter controls over time spent. The online link to the post was removed hours later without explanation – then restored to the paper’s website late in the day but with narcotics references stripped out.
Tencent then followed up with a pledge to further limit play time for minors – to just an hour during weekdays and no more than two hours during vacations and holidays. That’s a step up from restrictions imposed by China’s gaming watchdog in 2019. It also plans to forbid in-game purchases for under 12-year-olds, starting with its signature title. And more dramatically, the company broached the possibility of the industry banning games altogether for those under the age of 12, without elaborating.
Tuesday’s rapid-fire developments stoked fears Beijing will next train its attention on an arena that’s pivotal to the bottom line of media giants from Tencent to Apple Inc and Activision Blizzard Inc. They come after a couple of tumultuous weeks for global investors that at one point wiped out more than US$1 trillion (RM4.22 trillion) of market value. Since July, the government has effectively frozen overseas listings to safeguard data security in the wake of Didi Global Inc’s controversial US$4.4bil (RM18.59bil) IPO, and ordered a swath of after-school tutoring businesses to go non-profit. Those actions demonstrated Beijing’s resolve to go after private enterprises to address social inequities, seize control of data it deems crucial to the economy and stability, and rein in powerful interests.
“China, in this regard, is in uncharted waters and needs to tread the path carefully,” said Aidan Yao, Senior Emerging Asia Economist of AXA Investment Managers. “A lot of the recent market volatility is, in my view, a result of investors not knowing what Beijing is up to, that inadvertently erodes confidence in investing in this market. The latter is a key risk that needs to be carefully managed.”
Tencent recouped some of its losses to end 6% lower. Shares in Tencent backers Naspers Ltd and Prosus NV slid, while Nintendo Co and Capcom Co fell alongside Nexon Co in Tokyo. Many foreign game developers have a licensing deal with Tencent to get their titles into China.