Tencent to usher in name checks for world's most popular game to limit playtime of younger users

  • Tencent said it would launch a registration system for "Honor of Kings," meaning new users have to input their real name for authentication through China's public security database.
  • The system would identify whether a new user is actually a minor, subsequently enforcing "anti-addiction" rules limiting the amount of hours they can play per day.
  • Concerns over the potential for increased gaming regulation from Chinese authorities have weighed on Tencent's share price recently.
Young players compete in a battle match of the mobile game "Honor of Kings."
Zhang Peng | LightRocket | Getty Images
Young players compete in a battle match of the mobile game "Honor of Kings."

Chinese gaming giant Tencent is set to bring about identification checks for one of its hugely popular mobile titles to limit the playtime of younger users, as it faces heightened pressure from domestic regulators.

The firm said on its official WeChat account Thursday that it would launch a registration system for "Honor of Kings," meaning new users have to input their real name for authentication through China's public security database.

It said the system, set to be introduced on September 15, would identify whether a person trying to register with the game is actually a minor, subsequently enforcing an "anti-addiction" system limiting the amount of hours they can play per day.

The initiative is to crack down on the controversial phenomenon of gaming addiction among China's youth, something that has attracted the attention of lawmakers.

Last year, Tencent began enforcing playtime limits for children. The limits restricted playtime to one hour a day for children aged 12 and under, and two hours a day for teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18. The move came after the Chinese government criticized the addictive nature of the multiplayer online battle arena game.

Tencent plays a massive role in gaming, although it is less known in the West. The firm's online games unit accounts for nearly 40 percent of its revenues. And it publishes the popular battle royale game "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds" in China, the result of a deal it reached with the game's developer, South Korean firm Bluehole, last year.

Concerns over the potential for increased gaming regulation from Chinese authorities — who are concerned about the eye condition myopia, or near-sightedness, due to the amount of time being spent on mobile devices — have weighed on Tencent's share price recently. There are also concerns over the depiction of violence in "Honor of Kings," which features strong similarities to U.S. title "League of Legends."

Shares of the tech giant fell more than 3 percent on Thursday on news of the verification system.

With more than 200 million people playing it every month, "Honor of Kings" is both the most popular and top-grossing game of all time.

Tencent struck a deal with Japanese household name Nintendo in 2017 to bring the game to the latter's popular flagship console, the Nintendo Switch. The same year, the game was launched overseas for the first time.

Multiplayer online battle arena games, or MOBAs, are considered a staple of the esports scene, an industry thought to be worth $1 billion a year.