Tencent will further restrict how young children engage with its games after Chinese state media described online gaming as 'spiritual opium.'
The phrase was used in an article published by Economic Information Daily (EID) that suggested minors are addicted to online games and called for more curbs on the industry.
As reported by Reuters, the EID is sponsored and supervised by China's official state-run press agency Xinhua. Shortly after the article was published, around $60 billion was wiped off Tencent's market capitalization during early trading.
The EID seemed to take particular issue with Tencent's popular (and lucrative) mobile MOBA, Honor of Kings, claiming many Chinese students play the title for up to eight hours a day. "'Spiritual opium' has grown into an industry worth hundreds of billions," reads the article. "No industry, no sport, can be allowed to develop in a way that will destroy a generation."
Although Tencent didn't respond to the article directly, a few hours after it was published the Chinese conglomerate pledged to stop minors from spending too much time or money in Honor of Kings and eventually its other games by introducing new restrictions.
As explained in a statement posted on WeChat (via Reuters), the company said players under the age of 12 will be prevented from spending cash in-game, and that time restrictions aimed at minors will be tweaked to stop them from playing for more than 1 hour/day on non-holidays, or 2 hours/day on holidays.
Earlier this year, Tencent looked to enforce late-night gaming curfews by rolling out facial recognition technology that would prevent young players burning the midnight oil, again highlighting the extraordinary lengths companies are going to in order to comply with China's strict gaming restrictions.