Chinese regulators on Tuesday sought to curb the amount of money people spend on online video games, after the proposal sent shares of video gaming companies plunging and cast doubt on the government’s commitment to reviving China’s slowing economy. Backtracked from the plan.
The draft rules disappeared from the website of the National Press and Publications Administration, the agency overseeing the proposal, after first being posted there for public comment. Instead, the page displayed an error.
The agency, which issues licenses to game publishers and regulates the industry, did not issue any notice of withdrawal. An employee who answered the phone said she was unclear about the circumstances surrounding the move.
Despite no confirmation that the offer has been struck, share prices of China’s two biggest video game companies surged on Tuesday, with Tencent rising 3.7 percent and NetEase rising 6 percent, more than the overall market. .
The sweeping draft rules, as first announced late last month, would have imposed spending limits on video gaming platforms and banned minors from tipping video game live streamers who sell their games to fans. Favorites are a popular way to support online influencers. They would also have banned companies from offering rewards for repeated logins, and implemented a blanket ban on any content that threatens national security.
Officials said the goal was to protect minors and improve regulation of the gaming industry.
The plan came as a surprise to the industry and investors sank billions of dollars into stocks of Chinese gaming companies.
The selloff comes just as the government is trying to woo domestic and foreign investors amid a sluggish economy and widespread concerns that Beijing is more preoccupied with tightening control over the economy and daily life than promoting growth.
Many investors are still spooked by 2021’s sudden crackdown on China’s tech industry, which helped wipe trillions of dollars off the value of some of China’s best-known private companies, as well as the country’s three years of harsh coronavirus restrictions.
Gaming, in particular, has been a target before, with previous rules seeking to prevent children and teens from gaming online during the school day and limit their screen time on other days.
Within days of last month’s stock market crash, government officials already appeared to be reconsidering. The Press and Publications Administration issued a statement saying it wanted to promote the “healthy development” of the gaming industry, and was “listening to more opinions widely.”
The public comment period on the proposed rules ended on Monday. But several other draft rules remain online after the public comment period.
Beijing’s relationship with its gaming industry has been rocky for years. The ruling Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly expressed concern about online gaming addiction, with state media comparing a popular game to a “poison” that can corrupt teenagers and distract soldiers from their duties. Is. Many parents have also expressed support for tighter restrictions.
But Chinese tech companies like Tencent are also a cornerstone of the global gaming industry, with the number of Chinese gamers – and the money they spend – leading the world, according to Goldman Sachs. The country has embraced competitive gaming, the construction of e-sports stadiums, and major college offerings on the subject.
When the eastern city of Hangzhou hosted the Asia Games last year, e-sports was a medal event for the first time. China won the most gold medals.
joey dong Contributed research from Hong Kong