China Implements Online Game Anti-Addiction Measures: A Comprehensive Guide to NPPA's New System and Developer Compliance

On February 24, 2021, the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) of China announced the implementation of the new Online Game Anti-Addiction Real-name Authentication System, set to become mandatory for all games operating within the country from June 1, 2021. This system is designed to combat gaming addiction among minors and encompasses both online and mobile gaming platforms. The NPPA, the regulatory authority responsible for issuing ISBN numbers for game publication in China, mandates that all games, both existing and future releases, integrate with this system by the specified date.

The Online Game Anti-Addiction System introduces a two-pronged approach to mitigate gaming addiction

1. Chinese ID Verification: This process requires all players to authenticate their identity using their Chinese national ID number, a unique 18-digit code that includes the individual's birth date. Game developers must verify these IDs against official records to ensure the authenticity of the player's identity.

2. Playtime Reporting: The system necessitates the reporting of all players' gaming activities, including those of minors, guests, and adults. Unlike previous measures, this system does not automatically restrict playtime or purchases for underage players; these responsibilities remain with the game developers and publishers.

Implementation Details

- Underage Restrictions: Players under the age of 18 face several restrictions, including limited playtime (90 minutes on weekdays and 180 minutes on weekends and public holidays) and a curfew from 22:00 to 08:00. Moreover, there are stringent limits on in-game purchases, varying by age group.
- Guest Mode: A provision for a "guest mode" allows new players to test games for up to 60 minutes without undergoing ID verification. However, in-app purchases are disabled in this mode, and players must complete the ID verification process to continue playing beyond the initial 60 minutes.

- System Access for Publishers and Channels: The system requires games to be registered by a Chinese entity holding the ISBN. These entities must ensure the game's compliance and integration with the system. Games must also be linked with official distribution channels (e.g., Huawei, Tencent) through the system, although some platforms, notably iOS, may require independent system integration.

Specific Stipulations

For game developers (including international developers with games available in China), compliance with the new system is imperative. Coordination with Chinese publishers is essential, as they hold the necessary credentials and access to submit games to the system. This includes developing APIs for iOS games to ensure that requests from the game servers can interface with the government's system.

The NPPA has made it clear that games failing to integrate with the new system by June 1, 2021, will not be allowed to operate. While the enforcement timeline might vary between Android and iOS platforms, adherence to these regulations is crucial given their legal status tied to the game's ISBN license.

This initiative represents a significant step in China's ongoing efforts to address gaming addiction among minors, emphasizing the industry's responsibility to implement robust age verification and playtime monitoring mechanisms. Developers and publishers are encouraged to act promptly to ensure compliance and to reach out to their partners for support in navigating these requirements.

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