Underage Chinese Players Rent Accounts to Subvert New Age Restriction

More than a week has passed since the announcement of China’s new Gametime restriction mandate on minors. This mandate only allows minors under the age of 18 to play 3 hours of games every week during a very specific time window. Considering the number of teenage players in China, naturally, the first week of the mandate would not go smoothly.

Major game operators have responded that they have been developing and applying various new technologies for their age restriction systems. However, even industry bigwigs like Tencent still underestimated the enthusiasm of underage players for their games - the swarm of kids trying to log in to the Honor of Kings server crashed it the moment they were allowed on.

For about two hours, it’s almost impossible for any player to log in to the game, and those who were already logged in were unable to join any matchmaking system. For adult players, it caused some inconvenience, for which they received official points and compensation afterward. But for the majority of underage players who lost a third of their weekly game time allowance due to server overload, saying they’re disappointed would be a huge understatement.

(The official Weibo of Honor of Kings said at 10 p.m. on Sept 4 that their servers are back online and players will be compensated for their losses)

For game operators, it is not easy to cope perfectly even if they have predicted peak traffic times on weekend nights. According to Tencent's earning reports this year, only 2.6 percent of their game segment income comes from players under the age of 16. Game developers may spend more money on anti-addiction systems than what they make from minor players, not to mention the cost to upscale service just to cater to the three-hour peak every week. 

To enforce the mandate, video game service providers are required to strictly implement the account real-name system and not to provide game services in any form to unregistered users.

In practice, there are still loopholes in this system. Kids can still use their parents’ or grand parents’ ID to register unrestricted accounts. In games like Honor of Kings, it’s not rare to see senior citizen accounts showing incredible skill and dominating the game at 3 am. Obviously, someone else is actually playing.

(The age restriction system showing the player was born in 1961)

 It is also possible to rent accounts on the grey market. Spending $3 an hour to play a free mobile game might sound ridiculous, but after the new mandate, the demand for third party services like this is rising rapidly.

Game companies are reacting fast once they noticed the trend. Tencent Games claims that it has sued or sent lawyer’s letter to more than 20 account trading platforms and several e-commerce platforms, demanding the cessation of related services. It also called for the introduction of corresponding regulations to strictly control account renting and selling behaviors. In addition, many game operators are considering adopting technologies such as fingerprint and face recognition on top of the real-name registration system, as well as requiring parent’s confirmation when necessary, in order to further ensure the accurate matching of game accounts with personal identities.

 

Tencent Games responded that account rental and sale have undermined the real-name registration system, and they have taken action to abide by the new regulations

There is still an ongoing debate on how the new mandate would affect the gaming industry. Superpixel will keep reporting on the newest developments.

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