China’s crackdown on young gamers is covered in detail in the Tech Tent.
After all, that is how much time many people spend each day simply watching their favorite gamers compete on streaming platforms such as Twitch.
This week’s Tech Tent looks at two stories that demonstrate how attitudes toward online gaming are diverging in China and the Western world, according to the author.
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In China, the government intends to tighten already stringent rules governing the amount of time children spend playing video games online, and it is reasonably confident that these rules will be largely followed. Using facial recognition technology, Rui Ma, a California resident and host of the Tech Buzz China podcast, explains that the government relies on the games industry, particularly the industry’s dominant player Tencent, to enforce the rules.
“You must link your real identification to your online account. And if you’re playing late at night for an extended period of time, Tencent will actually scan your face to verify your identity. When you play late at night, even if your ID says you are an adult, the game servers will assume that you are a minor unless you provide a scan of your face.”
This type of intrusive regulation, particularly when it affects both adults and children, would be considered unacceptable in many countries.
However, Lisa Cosmas Hanson, whose market research firm Niko Partners studies the Asian games market, points out that China has been prohibiting the import of video game consoles for several years.
According to her, “the Chinese government has always been transparent, stating that we are here to protect our youth from what we consider to be harmful content and harmful behaviors.”
Chinese game developers and professional players, of course, are a powerful and rapidly expanding industry. While there should be little impact on it in the short term, Ms Hanson sees a threat to the next generation of developers and professional players in the long term.
“That is the difficult part, especially in the context of e-sports, where this will be a significant shift. What happens if they are unable to train for their sport, which is e-sports, and what happens if they are unable to train?”
Meanwhile, in the West, the competition among game-streaming platforms to attract top-tier players is becoming increasingly fierce.
Football fans were ecstatic to learn of Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer to Manchester United, but gamers were stunned to learn that two of Twitch’s biggest stars – TimTheTatman and DrLupo – were leaving the streaming platform to join streaming competitor YouTube.
Ben Lupo, who made his name playing Fortnite, is 34 years old and, like Cristiano Ronaldo, may not have many years left at the top of his game. He made it clear that money was a significant factor in his decision to switch to YouTube. “Like, why does anybody have to go to work, guys?” he asked his followers on Twitter.
Having deep pockets
Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, has emerged as the dominant player, a platform where millions of people are happy to express their admiration for celebrity gamers by donating money to them, despite the fact that there is no paywall.
However, YouTube, according to Louise Shorthouse, senior games analyst at Ampere Analysis, is growing in a way that may be appealing to some of Twitch’s stars in the future.
“YouTube is the most popular platform for watching video game content in countries such as India, South-East Asia, and South America. As a result, they represent new audiences that are expanding as well “she explains.
Nonetheless, Twitch should not be concerned because other deserters have returned after having a bad experience somewhere else, such as Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, who signed up for a large sum of money to Microsoft’s streaming service Mixer, only for it to be shut down within a year of joining.
Despite the fact that both Twitch and YouTube have the deep pockets of Amazon and Google behind them, it appears that they are both willing to spend heavily to attract and retain celebrity streamers.
They are well aware that the key to increasing their revenues is to keep viewers engaged with their services and exposed to advertisements for an extended period of time. As a result, they will be grateful that only a few governments are likely to follow China’s lead in limiting the amount of time young gamers spend online.