China’s unexpected announcement of new regulations to tackle excessive gaming and spending sent shockwaves through the financial markets, causing Tencent and other major gaming companies to suffer staggering losses. The draft guidelines, released by China’s National Press and Publication Administration, had a significant impact on the Hong Kong-listed shares of Tencent, NetEase, and Bilibili – three prominent players in the world’s largest online gaming market.
The Reaction from Market Analysts
The news of the regulatory measures dealt a severe blow to market sentiment, resulting in a sharp decline in Tencent’s market value. Analysts have expressed concern about the implications of these regulations and their potential impact on existing business models. Brian Tycangco, an analyst at Stansberry Research, acknowledged the intention behind the move but highlighted the potential doubts it cast over the viability of current models that rely heavily on incentives and rewards to attract users and foster loyalty.
Tencent’s Plummeting Value
Based in Shenzhen, Tencent is the owner of WeChat and generates a significant portion of its revenue from domestic online gaming. Following the announcement, Tencent’s stock saw a dramatic decline of approximately 12.4%, closing at HK$274. This marked the lowest closing level for the company since the end of November 2022.
NetEase and Bilibili Join the Plunge
NetEase, deriving 80% of its third-quarter revenue from domestic online gaming, was hit even harder, with its stock plunging by 24.6% to close at HK$122. As a result, NetEase’s market capitalization suffered a blow of roughly 115.1 billion Hong Kong dollars ($14.7 billion). Similarly, Bilibili, which generated 17.1% of its total third-quarter net revenue from Chinese domestic gaming, experienced a slide of 9.7%, closing at HK$80.30 – its lowest point since November 2022. This decline in value shaved about 2.4 billion Hong Kong dollars ($307 million) off Bilibili’s market capitalization.
Wider Market Impact
The Hang Seng Index closed down 1.7% on Friday, reflecting the nervousness surrounding the new regulations. The China Enterprises Index, which comprises the largest offshore mainland blue-chip names listed in Hong Kong, also ended on a down note, falling by 2.3%. These losses indicate the broader impact that China’s gaming regulations have had on the market.
Concerns Surrounding Regulatory Ambiguity
Despite reassurances from Vigo Zhang, vice-president of Tencent Games, that the new measures do not fundamentally alter the online gaming business model and operations, concerns persist. The lack of clarity surrounding these regulations has sparked uncertainty among investors, who are hesitant to wait for the dust to settle. Market participants are calling for better coordination between the industry and regulatory bodies to ensure a more favorable outcome for everyone involved in the future.
China’s Ongoing Regulatory Actions
These new draft guidelines come on the heels of a broader crackdown on the Chinese technology industry, which began in late 2020. Just a year ago, Tencent managed to secure rights to five of the 45 foreign game licenses approved by the National Press and Publication Administration, providing a faint glimmer of hope for the gaming sector amidst Beijing’s crackdown.
Chinese Government’s Stance on Gaming Addiction
The Chinese government has been particularly concerned about the addictive nature of online gaming, blaming it for various societal issues such as rising myopia and adverse psychological well-being among young people. In response, the authorities previously proposed strict limitations on gaming for children under 18, including a maximum of three hours of play per week during specific time slots. Moreover, the Cyberspace Administration of China suggested capping smartphone screen time at two hours per day for individuals under the age of 18.
Moving Forward with Caution
The introduction of new regulations targeting excessive gaming and spending has had a profound impact on Tencent and other major players in the Chinese gaming market. While the true implications of these guidelines are yet to be fully understood, it is clear that the market is undergoing significant changes. The gaming industry will need to adapt its models to comply with the regulations while continuing to innovate and deliver high-quality games that meet the authorities’ guidelines. As the market awaits further clarification and anticipates more coordinated efforts between industry and regulators, the future of China’s gaming landscape remains uncertain.