A censorship committee set up in China to vet online video games has found ethics violations in all of the first 20 titles it reviewed.
Of the games evaluated in the panel’s first round, nine were banned outright while the other 11 were sent back for the removal of "controversial content", Chinese state media reported.
The remit of the committee – made up of experts from educational institutions, media agencies, and industry associations – is to "guide online gaming companies to follow social moralities", "prioritise the mental and physical health of teenagers", and "promote the healthy development of the online gaming industry".
The Chinese government has raised concerns over the violent nature of some games, as well as the possibility of addiction. A rise in near-sightedness among the young has also been linked by the country’s education ministry to the amount of time spent on video games.
Authorities have since March been clamping down on the country’s online gaming industry – the biggest in the world with more than 500 million users and an estimated $38 billion revenue this year, according to figures reported in the South China Morning Post.
Since then, there has been a hiatus on issuing licenses for new games. In August, it was announced that a new body – the State Administration of Press and Publications – would be in charge of approving games and would cap the number of available titles. The government also wants to limit the time that minors are allowed to spend in the games.
It is believed that this panel – the existence of which was only revealed in an announcement on Friday – is operating under the auspices of the new body, though that has not been publicly confirmed.
Some online commentators welcomed the move, agreeing that some sexual or violent content may have negative effects on teenagers. But others were critical, suggesting it should be left to the public to decide which games to play.
The tightening of regulation has already impacted the online gaming industry, with one giant, Tencent, losing over $100 billion and seeing its value drop by more than 20 percent this year. Shares of NetEase also tumbled more than 30 per cent. However, the CEO of Net Ease, William Ding expressed support for the new committee, which he said would "help the gaming industry in the long run".