Protests from players of Chinese Internet role-playing games have forced Beijing to rethink plans to introduce an anti-addiction system that would limit the time players spend in online fantasy worlds, according to a report in the Financial Times.
Seven months after the announcement of the anti-addiction system, it is still only being tested on a small number of servers operated by big games companies.
The difficulties surrounding the anti-addiction system, drawn up after youth groups and newspapers blamed multi-player games for encouraging sloth, truancy and even murder, highlight the challenges Beijing faces in imposing its will on a rapidly expanding Internet sector.
It also suggests the effort could have less impact than expected on leading US-listed Chinese Internet companies such as Shanda Interactive Games Ltd., NetEase.com Inc. and Sohu.com
From June, online gamers would have to enter authentic identity information to play games, enabling parents to check their children's online gaming history, according to a report in The Beijing Daily Messenger, cited by the Xinhua news agency.
Company executives said it would be difficult to limit the anti-addiction system to players aged under-18, since few people signed up to play the games using their real names and ages.
The Financial Times quoted Zhou Donglei, director of business development and investor relations at Nasdaq-listed Shanda Interactive, as saying the government had "backed off" after fierce complaints from players.
"It's my right, I can decide what I want to do with my free time, whether I want to watch TV, or play mahjong, or drink, or play games," she said. "There's really not much the government can do."
Statistics from the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) show China had 111 million Internet users at the end of last year, including more than 20 million online game players, according to the Beijing Daily Messenger report.
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