Online gamers in China may soon have their fun cut short if a new timing system set to be tested in October becomes part of a mandatory software standard expected from the government later this year.

BEIJING (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Online gamers in China may soon have their fun cut short if a new timing system set to be tested in October becomes part of a mandatory software standard expected from the government later this year.

"This timing mechanism can prevent young people from becoming addicted to online games," said Kou Xiaowei, deputy director of the Press & Publications Administration. The PPA is one of several Chinese government bodies that oversee online publishing.

Seven of China's biggest online game publishers, including Nasdaq-newcomer Shanda Entertainment, have pledged to "sacrifice short-term revenue" from the 11 games to be tested in order to create a "healthy environment" for online gaming, a PPA spokeswoman said.

Shanda did not reply to requests for comment.

China's online population of 103 million is the world's second largest after the United States, and its online gaming market is increasingly lucrative. China's online gamers, mostly males between 14 and 24 years old, spent about 4 billion yuan ($493 million) on their Internet alter egos in the first six months of this year, the official Xinhua news agency reported in July.

Rapid growth in Internet use has sparked government concern about the addiction to "massively multiplayer online role-playing games," known as MMORPGs, which allow thousands of users to interact with one another in a virtual world using instant messaging to communicate.

A clinic to treat Internet addiction has opened in a military hospital in Beijing, authorities regularly shut down illegal Internet cafes, and the PPA and five other government agencies recently joined together to restrict imports of foreign entertainment media, including online games.

Meanwhile, China plans to invest 15 billion yuan ($1.8 billion) within the next three years to speed the development of the domestic online gaming industry, Yu Yongzhan, another PPA deputy director, said in July.

The new timing system is due to be tested for 20 days beginning Oct. 1, at the start of a weeklong holiday in China.

Counted among the often violent games in the test are several that originated with programmers outside China. The new timing system will issue players a warning at three hours, then limit their ability to increase their score and collect prizes.

After five hours of play, the system will erase all scores and prizes but will not disconnect players automatically. If players continue to play after five hours the system will continue to restrict their ability to raise their scores and win prizes.

The planned test will include Shanda's "The Legend of Mir II" and "The World of Legend," NetEase's "Westward Journey Online" and "Fantasy Westward Journey Online," The9's "World of Warcraft" and "MU," Kingsoft's "JX Online" and "First Myth Online, Optisp's "The Legend of Mir 3G," SINA's "Lineage II" and Sohu's "Blade Online."

The proposed timing system is expected to be mandated for all MMORPGs in China later this year or in early 2006, the PPA spokeswoman said.