By Sun Zhe
As of Sunday, China's gamers have to use their real names and national ID numbers before playing online, in an effort to reduce juvenile online gaming and tighten supervision over the sprawling industry.
The measure was drafted by the Ministry of Culture (MOC) in late June and also requires a minimum registered capital of 10 million yuan ($1.48 million) for online gaming companies to get licensed.
The registered capital threshold will make regulating much easier for the government, said Zhao Xufeng, a gaming analyst in Shanghai with IT consulting firm iResearch.
Small gaming companies will either be cleared out or acquired by big ones, and then only larger industry players would remain, which are much easier to keep a close eye on, said Zhao.
However, Zhao does not think the real-name policy would keep children off the Web even though teenagers do not usually get their ID cards until after age 16.
"All you need is only a name and an ID number to get registered," said Zhao, "they may use their parents' or any other that's handy."
But many gamers are unconcerned about the real name policy.
"I don't care if my real name is needed to play a game as long as the game is good," said Zhu Feng, a banking analyst and a 25-year-old Warrior of War (WOW) player from Beijing.
Zhu, however, is worried about increasing regulation of the industry.
He already plays WOW via the server in Taiwan, instead of the mainland server run by Netease. "The game on the mainland server isn't fun because it was revised in accordance with the government's requirements," said Zhu.
The revenue of China's Web gaming industry totaled about 27 billion yuan ($3.99 billion) in 2009, and is expected to grow to 31 billion yuan ($4.58 billion) this year, according to iResearch.
The measure also bars juveniles from buying virtual currencies and a transaction record from the past 180 days is required for each buyer.
The government is cracking down on illegal usage of virtual currencies like gambling and money laundering, added Zhao.