In news that isn't creepy whatsoever, the developer of Honour of Kings — known as Arena of Valor in Australia and New Zealand — will use the game to test facial recognition technology to determine whether minors are spending too much time playing the mobile game.
Tencent, the Chinese mega-corporation responsible for developing Honour of Kings and its Western release, Arena of Valor, said in a release that the trial would include 1000 users in Shenzhen and Beijing. The South China Morning Post also reported that Tencent has already put a system in place to cross-reference Chinese Honour of Kings players with state-run security databases for verification purposes.
The trial, however, will be the first time a developer gates access to a game behind visual recognition software. It comes after mounting public pressure in China to safeguard children's health by limiting the amount of time kids spend playing video games, which hits Tencent particularly hard given Honour of Kings' popularity.
A couple of weeks ago, I read a story filled with anonymous sources about some alleged turmoil between Riot Games and their Chinese parent, Tencent. While not speaking to the truth of anything printed, it did remind me that Arena of Valor was playable in Australia. So I've been giving it a whirl for a little while, and as a result, I can fully understand if - or why - Riot might have been a bit ticked off.
China's ruling party has ramped up restrictions on video games in the last 12 months, ranging from imposing time limits on younger users to curb concerns about addiction to freezing approvals of game licenses entirely in mid-August. The stringent approvals process can be complicated, with Tencent in particular damaged by a lack of approval to monetise the mobile release of PUBG in China. (Tencent also has the publishing rights for PUBG's PC version and Fortnite in China, but hasn't received approval for those either.)
Being the conglomerate's most profitable and popular title, safeguarding Honour of Kings from further regulation is obviously a priority. So it's not much of a surprise that Tencent would incorporate more age checks. The game has already played host to some less than ideal coverage in Eastern press: a woman went blind in one eye last year after playing the mobile MOBA for 24 hours straight, while two parents took the questionable decision to name their daughter "Honour of Kings". Local authorities noted that they couldn't oppose the parents decision, and a local site posted a photo of the daughter's registration card.
Tencent didn't announce when or if the trial would be rolled out on a wider basis, or whether the technology would be used in territories outside of China. The game's listing on Google Play doesn't currently doesn't have any permissions to access the camera, although it can read, modify and delete the contents of your files, media and photos.