China clamps down on online gaming market

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The Independent Online

Web users in China will have to register their names before playing games online as part of the nation's first official set of rules governing the booming market, state media said Wednesday.

The regulations, which also require online game companies to self-censor, will come into force on August 1 and apply to all domestic and imported role-playing and social networking games, the official China Daily said.

The measures, launched by the Ministry of Culture, aim to curb soaring rates of Internet addiction in China, particularly among minors.

China's online games sector is booming thanks to the growth of the nation's web community, now the largest in the world. Cheap computer products and relatively inexpensive Internet access have also fuelled the trend.

IT research firm Analysys International predicts that by 2012, the market will nearly triple from 2009 levels to about 73 billion yuan (11 billion dollars), with more than 270 million players.

According to the new rules, online users who want to play a game will have to go through a registration process with a valid ID, and game providers will also be banned from offering unsuitable games to minors, the report said.

China's online population reached 404 million earlier this year, official data showed, and the number of young Internet addicts was estimated at around 24 million last year.

Beijing operates an extensive system of Internet censorship - dubbed the "Great Firewall of China" - aimed at filtering out any information deemed politically sensitive or harmful.

In a move seen as further tightening control of the Internet, state media reported last month that authorities would introduce a system requiring web users to provide their real names before posting comments online.

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