SHANGHAI - Internet users will have to register using their real names before indulging in online games starting Sunday as part of a nationwide campaign to protect minors and improve management of the virtual gaming industry, authorities said.
The Ministry of Culture had issued the regulation in late June.
The regulation, which will take effect on Aug 1, applies to all multiplayer roleplaying and social networking games.
But both ardent game players and experts believe the policy will have little impact on the industry.
Major online game operators in China, including Shanda and Tencent Games, said they had already implemented the real name registration policy some months ago and the move has not had an effect on their business.
Many also question the effectiveness of the policy, as it will fail to protect minors in the absence of a credible identity recognition system.
"Minors might as well borrow or even buy ID cards online if they really want to play games. So the new rule cannot really keep them off," said Hu Dong, an avid gamer from Shanghai.
Li Li, deputy director of the Shanghai Information Law Association, agreed. He said it was meaningless to promote real name registration without an effective national identification system, which should ideally include other credible information of the players, such as their bank accounts, in order to be really effective.
"Without such a basis, the move will only increase costs for the operators and bring them greater risks," said Li.
The Shanghai version of the regulation has made more detailed rules in a bid to protect minors from virtual warfare.
Online game vendors, for instance, are required to indicate at prominent positions of their websites whether or not the games are suitable for minors, who are under 18 years old.
If unsuitable for minors, game operators should install a technical system prohibiting them from starting the games.
For those games rendered appropriate for minors, there should be no misleading information involved and a time limit should be in place to prevent kids from getting addicted to the games, according to the regulation.
"If everyone can use their real ID cards to register, then the policy would be good for both minors and adults," said Wu Hao, 22, a Shanghai resident who has been playing online games for more than a decade.
"Now many online games that contain violence have been modified to appear less frightening to minors, but we as adults don't like that A screening system is necessary so that we all can enjoy the games," he said.