Pony Ma Huateng's Tencent was criticized by Beijing media for its online game business. Photo: pvp.qq.com
Pony Ma Huateng's Tencent was criticized by Beijing media for its online game business. Photo: pvp.qq.com

The trouble with all giants is that when they fall, it’s a long way down. This is particularly true in China. Chinese giant Tencent has come under fire from authorities over children spending long hours on its computer games and also the tone of the company’s games have come under fire.

Xinhuanet.com launched an attack against online game developers led by Tencent for ignoring instructions from ministries by launching games they say poison children’s minds.

The harsh comments came on the eve of the June 1 Children Festival, with Xinhua reminding game developers to strive for a balance between commercial interests and social responsibility because children are the hopes of family and the nation and therefore they need to be properly protected.

Xinhua was very critical of Tencent, which owns more than 50% of the online games in China, saying it has not taken any real measures to protect children from becoming addicted to their games.

Xinhua’s criticism came after Tencent chairman Ma Huateng said on Saturday that China’s scientific research remained weak, fueling speculation that Beijing was punishing Ma for his bold speech.

Read: Ma is inventing more reasons for why China should innovate

Last July, Tencent suffered its worst decline after the People’s Daily blasted its new game “King of Glory”, saying it poisoned youngsters and destroyed their lives.

Shares of Tencent fell 4% on the first day after the criticism, wiping more than HK$100 billion (US$12.74 billion) from its market capitalization amid worries the official scolding may mean more trouble for the mainland internet giant.

It was reported there were more than 200 million registered users of King of Glory, with a daily active user base of 80 million, which implies one in every seven Chinese children was playing the online game.

Tencent has now imposed measures to limit children of 12 or under to a one-hour window of play each day, and a two-hour daily limit for juveniles above 12. It also bans logins after 9pm and disallows multiple account logins.

Tencent survived the crisis that pushed the stock below HK$270, but it rebounded to more than HK$475 in February before a gradual retreat to HK$395 on Wednesday.

Tencent has not yet answered Asia Times’ inquiries about Xinhua’s criticism.