Western video game publishers chasing the Chinese market were just hit with a massive setback as the Chinese government announced new regulations for minors. The New York Times reports in addition to a 10pm digital curfew, children will have limitations placed on how much they can spend and how long they can play per day.
Unless the Chinese desire to earn the ire of their government children will be limited to playing 90 minutes per day on weekdays, but can enjoy a generous 3 hours of play on the weekend and holidays. For Western companies greedily rubbing their hands together at the idea this will mean microtransaction time savers will be in extreme demand there is disappointment coming. The new regulations limit the amount of money children can spend from between $28 at younger ages to $57 at older ages, per month. That’s right, not a day, not a week; children the most easily exploited group in gaming are limited to $57 a month or $1.90 a day on all skins, time savors, loot boxes, etc.
Analysts and parents already are arguing children will find a way around these new regulations, but that might not be as easy as it sounds. In the West it is a “duh” moment, if you can’t buy it have an adult buy it for you or work around parental controls. In China where there is a social credit system, how many parents are going to be willing to allow their children to use their ID as children must now use their real names for their accounts? Risking their social credit scores for excessive video game play if the government doesn’t wise up to what’s going on or for allowing your child to skirt the law.
One parent talking to the Times noted that this will mean his child will just play more offline games, so until China implements an always online requirement for all their games or until tracking software will be utilized in all consoles, children will have alternatives. This doesn’t bode well for Western publishers looking to tap the Chinese market as all microtransactions will require an online connection and will be counted against their spending limit.
Yang Bingden offered the most sensible answer to the problem: that instead of focusing on making things illegal and regulating them, they should be developing alternatives for children to engage in. Though equally, he’s the parent so shouldn’t it be his job to find alternatives for his son? Critics and the Western industry will scoff at the notion that in the zeitgeist of the west the notion of our consumerist way of life is being rethought and questioned.
Increasingly the Chinese government views video games as a poison onto their culture. To understand this one needs to understand their president Xi Jinping. From a the leaked CIA profile we learned the man views consumerism and consumerist culture as a rot onto society that destroys traditional values that he sees as necessary for Chinese civilization to continue to exist. There is a certain logic to this, if deficit spending did not exist most U.S., states would be both bankrupt and failed today. Already Illinois, California, and New York City are heading to insolvency and default on their obligations. This dodging of responsibilities allows states to promote a consumerist culture of spend spend spend, without having to manage inflation or the economy with any level of care.
For the west a complete collapse will be something somewhat new. Aside from Weimar Germany’s hyper inflation and Venezuela’s socialist failings the West does not have many practical examples of a civilization collapsing. China in comparison has been in a state of conflict or under foreign rule more than it has enjoyed periods of stability. Like him or hate him his position draws from thousands of years of Chinese instability. To him the consumerist culture the West propagates is a threat to the moral fabric of his society that will lead them back to a period of instability. As a result he calls it publicly a poison and hates it regardless of how much his citizens disagree.
For Western consumers tired of the AAA industry’s shady monetization tactics that they increasingly view China as a dumping ground for, this is a boon. Not only does Xi Jinping hate the industry, but he especially hates the Western industry’s practices for their exploitative nature. As revenue continues to decline in the West the great hope of exploiting the Chinese has effectively died. Thanks in part to the social credit system and more so now under these new regulations.
How these new regulations will change the gaming industry will be seen in time. No doubt AAA companies are now in a panic as China dropped harsher regulations than any Western nation has contemplated in the pursuit of regulating microtransactions and loot boxes. Interesting times ahead.