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China increasing video game restrictions to combat myopia in children

China increasing video game restrictions to combat myopia in children

August 31, 2018 | By Chris Kerr

China is toughening its stance on video games in what it claims are attempts to combat myopia (near-sightedness) in children and teenagers. 

As reported by The BBC, regulators hope to stamp out the visual impairment by limiting the number of new online games coming into the country, while also curbing play time and implementing a new age-restriction system.

The Chinese ministry of education detailed its new policy plans yesterday, and suggested high levels of myopia can be traced back to heavy study loads, a lack of outdoor and physical activity, and the rise in smartphones and other electronic devices. 

It's a huge development given the country's position as the world's biggest gaming market, and the new rules will make it even harder for developers to launch games in the region. 

It also explains why China has recently stopped approving new titles for release, with the freeze affecting the likes of tech giant Tencent, which just a few weeks ago revealed it couldn't gain approval to monetize popular last-man-standing shooter PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds in the country. 

Of course, this isn't the first time regulators in China have expressed concern about the effects of video games -- and specifically online mobile titles -- on the nation's youth. 

In August last year, Tencent managed to paint a target on its back after teenagers became enamored with its hit mobile MOBA, Honor of Kings

Parents and teachers suggested children were becoming addicted to the title, so the company quickly implemented age-specific play restrictions, and even introduced in-game contracts between parents and children. 

Perhaps fittingly, Tencent has become one of the first companies to feel the impact of the new regulatory changes, with shares in the Chinese outfit falling by 5 percent today -- slashing its market price by around $20 billion. 

Ultimately, analysts predict the new changes could force Chinese companies to seek surer footing away from home soil, resulting in them becoming more reliant on the international market.

Tencent, at least, seems capable of doing that. The company already owns League of Legends maker Riot Games and Clash of Clans creator Supercell, and just yesterday struck up an 'strategic alliance' with Japanese developer Square Enix.

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