Gaming and short video service operators – including Tencent Holdings, TikTok owner ByteDance and NetEase – must also provide a “minor mode” on their platforms.
As of 2021, China had more than 191 million internet users younger than 18, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre. With tighter curbs on internet use under way, analysts said the impact on local Big Tech firms will be limited in the short term, but could hurt user numbers over time.
“For most internet and gaming firms, minors are not their target customers,” said Zhang Shule, an analyst at CBJ Think Tank. “Years of regulation against (internet) addiction has made minors a very small portion of free or paid users for top Chinese gaming companies.”
Zhang said he does not expect the roll-out of the regulation to hit revenues of Chinese internet firms.
For Tencent, the largest video gaming company in the world by revenue, minors made up just 0.4 per cent of total time spent on domestic games and 0.7 per cent of gross receipts in the first quarter this year, according to the company.
However, the new rules could keep companies from building up certain user habits as minors move into adulthood, and they may have knock-on effects for user numbers of other internet products and services, according to Zhang Yi, founder and chief analyst at Guangdong-based consultancy iiMedia.
The new regulation “will have some impact on the active user pool” for mobile services, Zhang said, adding that Big Tech firms may also lose out on opportunities to build up mindshare among young users.
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