The Chinese government has issued a regulation requiring online game operators to set up a "game fatigue system" which will limit the number of effective playtime hours for gamers under 18.
Taking effect on April 15, the system will allow gamers to play normally for three hours; following that, for the next two hours, points will be awarded at only half their normal value. After five hours have elapsed, there will be no rewards for gameplay, and gamers will be shown a message at 15-minute intervals indicating that they have entered "unhealthy time," and should stop playing.
In order to ensure compliance, users must register with game sites using their real names and identity cards, and any game company that has not implemented the software by July 16 will be shut down.
According to the People's Daily Online, there were over 31 million online gamers in China last year, approximately 10% of whom were below the age of 18. The government has expressed concern over the social impact of online gaming on such large numbers of youths, with "net addiction" being blamed for a rise in truancy and criminal behavior among schoolchildren.
Most game companies do not believe this will be a significant drain on revenue, as the majority of Chinese gamers are adults, but there is concern that the registration policy could have a chilling effect. Liu Bin, chief analyst at BDA China, said, "The system requires every online player to register with their real identity. This will scare away many adult and young users."
This is not the first step China has taken to combat the rise in online addiction. Last month, authorities banned the opening of new cyber cafes for one year, and they have also created an agency responsible for monitoring game content.