Tencent said it would limit the number of hours children can play its Honour of Kings game following complaints from parents the game was addictive, causing its market value to fall by around $12 billion, Reuters reported.
However, the Chinese giant said its decision would not affect the company’s performance: “[Those] under 12 years old constitute a small proportion of our total user base and a smaller percentage of our paying user base. We do not expect these measures will have a material impact on our overall financial results.”
The company said users aged under 12 years would only be able to play for an hour a day while those aged between 12 and 18 years would be allowed two hours, although it did not explain how it would impose these restrictions and it is not clear if players will be able figure out a way around them.
“There are no rules to prevent indulgence in mobile games in China, but we decided to be the first to try to dispel parental worries by limiting play time and forcing children to log off,” Tencent said on its official WeChat account.
China’s largest social media and gaming company may also stop users under 12 from logging in after 9pm and impose restrictions on how much money they can spend.
Honour of Kings is a fantasy multiplayer role playing battle game and China’s most popular mobile game with around 200 million users in total and 55 million daily active users. According to Chinese mobile data company Jiguang, half of its users are aged below 24.
A Financial Times article from January said the game is almost unknown outside of China and is a mobile version of the world’s most played game, League of Legends, created by US developer Riot Games in which Tencent bought a controlling stake in 2011.
It was the world’s top-grossing game by worldwide iOS and Google Play revenue in May, according to App Annie. Chinese gaming industry database CNG estimates Honour of Kings generated revenue of more than CNY5.5 billion ($810.47 million) in Q1 2017, which is nearly half of Tencent’s smartphone games revenue.
It was not just parents and teachers who are worried about the game. The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, said Honour of Kings was poison and called for stricter regulation of online games in general.
It gave instances of teenagers stealing money to spend on the game and also cited a case of alleged suicide.
Tencent said it would require real name registration for all users and upgrade a parental control platform it rolled out earlier this year.