In a move that is likely to have big ramifications for China’s booming gaming industry, Tencent has announced it will require all players to identify themselves so their ages can be checked against police databases.

The move is in response to growing government alarm over online gaming addiction among the young in China.

The world’s biggest gaming and social media company introduced the age checks in nine cities last month for anyone playing its hugely popular Honour of Kings mobile game.

Now, it says it will expand the checks to another nine of its games, the South China Morning Post reported, before making the age verification compulsory for players of all games from next year. The checks affect players on both personal computers and mobile phones.

“Tencent is making the anti-addiction measures the benchmark for the industry. Other small companies will have to adopt the similar measures,” William Li, senior analyst at Beijing-based data research company Context Lab, told the Post.

“With the stricter rules, the whole gaming industry will be negatively affected,” he added.

The World Health Organisation now categorises compulsive video game playing as a mental health condition.

And China’s media has recently stepped up its coverage of what is seen as a serious problem among the young.

In September, the official news agency Xinhua ran a commentary condemning the “addiction” and calling on society to establish protections for children.

“For the nation’s future, we can never allow gaming companies to hunt for wealth by inducing teens to get addicted [to games],” it said.

And the Communist Party’s People’s Daily called for “strict control” of the industry, while recognising the significance of the gaming sector to the economy.

China’s gaming industry is estimated by research firm Newzoo to be the world’s largest single gaming market in terms of both its size and revenue.

However, the sector is growing at its slowest pace in a decade, the Post noted, as for several months the government has called a halt to the approval of new games.

According to the Beijing-based research company CNG, the sector’s revenue in the first half of the year was US$15 billion, up 5% year on year, and the slowest growth since at least 2009.

Sourced from South China Morning Post; additional content by WARC staff