Chinese authorities have announced new regulations that will prohibit anyone under the age of eighteen from playing online games in which players are allowed to kill other players, according to Chinese news agency Interfax.
China's Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Information Industry have also ordered the country's online game operators to develop identity authentication systems, which would require all players to first enter their Citizen ID Card numbers before being allowed to play games that allow player kills (PKs).
"Minors should not be allowed to play online games that have PK content, that allow players to increase the power of their own online game characters by killing other players," Liu Shifa, head of the Ministry of Culture's Internet Culture Division commented. "Online games that have PK content usually also contain acts of violence and leads to players spending too much time trying to increase the power of their characters. They are harmful to young people."
The Chinese online gaming market generated RMB2.47 billion ($304m) in sales revenue last year and is expected to see RMB10.9 billion ($1.34bn) in sales revenue for 2005, according to China's General Administration of Press and Publication. It is dominated by massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) that feature player kills as a key element of gameplay. These included top-rated games such as World of WarCraft, Legend of MIR I and II and Fantasy Journey to the West.
In addition to the age limitations, Chinese authorities have also ordered online game operators to install timing mechanisms that would automatically log players off of online games once they have exceeded a set number of hours of continuous play. Chinese gamers, on average, spend 10.9 hours a week playing online games.
Finally, authorities have also raised entry barriers for becoming a licensed online game operator in China. Companies looking to become licensed for the first time as an online game operator in China must now have no less than RMB10 million ($1.23m) in registered capital.
In tandem with these restrictions, Chinese publication Shanghai Youth is reporting that, following recent news of Chinese government investment in 'healthy' online games, the prospective investment in Chinese-authored games could increase to as much as $1.8 billion, as Korean MMO and now Western online titles continue to do well in China.