China tightens supervision of online games

China has vowed to tighten supervision of its fast-growing online games market, saying some games contained content that was "harmful" to players.

Some online games used "bloody, violent and obscene" content to attract players, hurting their "physical and psychological health", the culture ministry said.

The ministry said it would toughen the approval process for new online game companies and step up oversight of content such as role definition and language.

For their part, online game developers should limit the number of virtual marriages and player-versus-player combat and improve technology to restrict the amount of time teenagers can spend on the Internet, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday.

The number of Internet gamers in China reached 217 million at the end of June, or 64.2 percent of the nation's total online population, according to the government-linked China Internet Network Information Centre.

Sales revenue rose 52.2 percent to 20.8 billion yuan (three billion dollars) in 2008, making China the world's second largest online games market after the United States, according to a report by research firm iResearch.

By 2012, China's online games market is expected to be worth 68.6 billion yuan, or 46.9 percent of the world's total, the report said.

The Communist Party has a history of blocking online content it deems unhealthy, which includes pornography and sensitive political information.

Earlier this month, another ministry rejected an application by Chinese Internet portal NetEase seeking approval for the game World of Warcraft.

NetEase violated a rule banning new account registration and collection of subscription fees during a trial period that started July 30, when the firm was ordered to "revise harmful content" in the game, the General Administration of Press and Publication said.

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