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China govt steps up limits on online gaming

Three-hour limit embraced by seven superpower publishers; World of Warcraft among those games affected.


Online gamers are different in Asia.

Examples of extreme devotion to one's favorite online game have resulted in a number of quirky, if not tragic, occurrences in that part of the world. For instance, there's the couple whose infant expired as they played games in an Internet cafe; there is the death that occurred from exhaustion; and there are even murders that have resulted from feuds begun online. These are a few of the most notorious results of intense attachments to gaming.

In China yesterday, the government agency that oversees the online game industry said that testing of a system to regulate the number of hours gamers spend online will be ready for deployment this October.

The system will impose penalties on players who spend more than three hours gaming online. The system is slated to be fully operational in late 2006 or early 2006 and will be compulsory for all massively multiplayer online role-playing and online casual games.

"This timing mechanism can prevent young people from becoming addicted to online games," Xiaowei Kou, the deputy director of the general administration of press and publication (GAPP), said during a press conference in Beijing.

According to the Interfax news service, the system reduces the ability level of a player's online game character if the game is played beyond the three-hour limit. Basically, play more than three hours and the system cuts a game character's ability by half. Play more than five hours and the system reduces a game character's ability to the lowest level possible.

Gamers must wait a minimum of five hours before returning to gameplay, or the system will not reset..

Companies that have vowed to participate in the beta of such a system include the country's biggest online game operators: Shanda, NetEase, The9, Optisp, Kingsoft, SINA, and Sohu.

The following games will be included in trials of the new system: The Legend of Mir II, The World of Legend, Westward Journey Online, Fantasy Westward Journey Online, World of Warcraft, MU, JX Online, First Myth Online, The Legend of Mir 3G, Lineage II, and Blade Online.

The endorsement of publishers is hardly surprising, as no online game is allowed to be operated in China without GAPP's approval. To defy GAPP would be tantamount to exiting the online-game playing field in China.

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