China’s real name verification system for games to launch nationwide by September

For years, the Chinese government has been trying to stop kids from playing too many video games. Now regulators are taking things a step further by ensuring anyone wanting to play a game must log in with their real names, thanks to a state-run authentication system set to be rolled out by September.
Once implemented, game makers will be asked to join the system in batches, said Feng Shixin, an official from the Communist Party’s Central Publicity Department. Feng spoke on Friday during ChinaJoy, the county’s biggest gaming expo, state media reported.
The plan has been in the works for some time, with the government pushing for tighter controls based on the argument that it needs to protect minors. In 2019, the State Administration of Press and Publications (SAPP), the body in charge of regulating games, introduced new limits on how much time and money minors can spend on games. Anyone under 18 years old is limited to 90 minutes on weekdays and three hours on holidays.
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To enforce these limits, players are required to to give out their real names which can be checked against ID numbers. Tencent and NetEase, the country’s two largest gaming companies, got a jump on these plans by introducing their own verification systems.
These systems have also given kids a look at what kinds of innovative workaround they might have to rely on to spend more time gaming in the future. Some kids have already gone as far as using fake IDs or going to smartphone arcades that help them get past verification. At least one kid even impersonated his grandfather by pinching his throat to sound older to customer service.
For now, not much is known about how the national verification system will work or whether it will resemble the independent systems already in place. In some cases, the private systems have introduced some stringent controls. In Honour of Kings, the immensely popular Tencent game known as Arena of Valor overseas, the verification system includes a facial recognition scan.
China also has other rules governing what games are even allowed in the country. One requirement is for game publishers to submit games for content and monetisation review before they can be legally distributed in China.
This has created problems for developers and publishers trying to crack the China market. They have to contend with complex and sometimes mind-boggling rules about what is allowed to go into a game.
At the expo, Feng said regulators have begun inspecting games and that more inspections are coming. In the first half of this year, nearly 100 games were punished for operating without authorisation. This month, Apple also removed thousands of unapproved mobile games from its App Store in China, closing a loophole that game makers have relied on for years.
So far it seems that China’s gaming industry hasn’t suffered much from these changes, largely thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic that has kept people indoors. The resulting gaming boom has led to sales of Chinese games jumping more than 22 per cent to 139.4 billion yuan (US$19.9 billion) in the first six months of this year, according to the China Game Industry Report released by the ChinaJoy-associated China Digital Entertainment Congress (CDEC) on Thursday.
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