Tencent Holdings

Tencent left out as China approves the release of 80 new video games

Posted by | Activision, Asia, China, Entertainment, Gaming, riot, supercell, TC, Tencent, Tencent Holdings, WeChat | No Comments

Chinese internet giant Tencent has been excluded from the first batch of video game license approvals issued by the state-run government since March.

China regulators approved Saturday the released of 80 online video games after a months-long freeze, Reuters first reported. None of the approved titles listed on the approval list were from Tencent Holdings, the world’s largest gaming company.

Licenses are usually granted on a first come, first serve basis in order of when studios file their applications, several game developers told TechCrunch. There are at least 7,000 titles in the waiting list, among which only 3,000 may receive the official licenses in 2019, China’s 21st Century Business Herald reported citing experts. Given the small chance of making it to the first batch, it’s unsurprising the country’s two largest game publishers Tencent and NetEase were absent.

The controlled and gradual unfreezing process is in line with a senior official’s announcement on December 21. While the Chinese gaming regulator is trying its best to greenlight titles as soon as possible, there is a huge number of applications in the pipeline, the official said. Without licenses, studios cannot legally monetize their titles in China. The hiatus in approval has slashed earnings in the world’s largest gaming market, which posted a 5.4 percent year-over-year growth in the first half of 2018, the slowest rate in the last ten years according to a report by Beijing-based research firm GPC and China’s official gaming association CNG.

Tencent is best known as the company behind WeChat, a popular messaging platform in China. But much of its revenue comes from gaming. Even with a recent decline in gaming revenue, the company has a thriving business that is majority owner of several companies including Activision, Grinding Gears Games, Riot and Supercell. In 2012, the company took a 40 percent stake in Epic Games, maker of Fortnite. Tencent also has alliances or publishing deals with other video gaming companies such as Square Enix, makers of Tomb Raider. 

The ban on new video game titles in China has affected Tencent’s bottom line. The company reported revenue from gaming fell 4 percent in the third quarter due to the prolonged freeze on licenses. At the time, Tencent claimed it had 15 games with monetization approval in its pipeline. To combat pressure in its consumer-facing gaming business, the Chinese giant launched a major reorganization in October to focus more on enterprise-related initiatives such as cloud services and maps. Founder and CEO Pony Ma said at the time the strategic repositioning would prepare Tencent for the next 20 years of operation.

“In the second stage, we aspire to enable our partners in different industries to better connect with consumers via an expanding, open and connected ecosystem,” stated Ma.

China tightened restrictions in 2018 to combat games that are deemed illegal, immoral, low-quality or have a negative social impact such as those that make children addicted or near-sighted. This means studios, regardless of size, need to weigh new guidelines in their production and user interaction. Tencent placed its own restrictions on gaming in what appeared to be an attempt to assuage regulators. The company has expanded its age verification system, an effort aimed at curbing use of young players, and placed limits on daily play.

Update (December 30, 10:00 am, GMT+8): Adds context on China’s gaming industry and Tencent.

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Tencent to tighten age verification checks for gamers amid government crackdown

Posted by | Asia, China, Gaming, gaming addiction, privacy, Tencent, Tencent Holdings, WeChat | No Comments

Chinese Internet giant Tencent has announced it’s bringing in a new system of age checks to its video games which will be linked to a national public security database — in an effort to reliably identify minors so it can limit how long children can play its games.

The new real name-based registration system will initially be mandated for new players of its popular Honour of Kings fantasy multiplayer role-playing battle game.

It will be introduced around September 15, according to Reuters.

Tencent said the planned ID verification system — which Bloomberg couches as equivalent to a police ID check — is the first of its kind in the Chinese gaming industry, and claimed it will enable it to accurately identify underaged players and impose existing play time restrictions.

Last July Tencent said it would impose a playtime maximum of one hour per day for children up to aged 12, and a maximum of two hours a day for those between 13 and 18. But if kids can get around age checks such limits are meaningless.

“Through these measures, Tencent hopes to continue to better guide underaged players to game sensibly,” it said in a statement on its official WeChat account about the beefed up checks. It also said it plans to gradually expand the requirement to its other games.

In total Tencent’s gaming portfolio is reported to have more than 500 million players in China.

The move comes amid a crackdown by the Chinese government on video gaming over fears of health problems and addiction among children.

Late last month a statement posted on the Education Ministry website said new curbs were needed to counter worsening myopia among minors.

Ministers have long said they want to limit the amount of time kids can play games — although achieving that outcome is clearly a major challenge, given the popularity of video games and the proliferation of devices from which they can be accessed.

Tencent’s move to link age verification to a public security database does seem to represent a significant new step towards the government achieving its goal of also controlling kids’ digital activity. And investors reacted negatively to the announcement — pushing Tencent’s shares down more than 3%.

Shares in the company also dived around 3% last week when the government announced its latest gaming crackdown.

Reuters notes that shares in two other major Chinese game developers, China Youzu Interactive and Perfect World, also dropped 5.5% and 3.6%, respectively, as investors digested the regulatory risk.

Last year the Chinese government also tightened general Internet regulations, doubling down on its long standing real-name registration rules.

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