China has more gamers than anywhere else in the world, and most of them are playing on their smartphones. Mobile gaming is so popular in the country that it’s driving the next generation of arcades -- except these aren’t filled with big Street Fighter machines, they’re filled with smartphones and tablets.

Kids in the southeastern cities of Nanchang and Jiujiang are visiting “smartphone cafes” that have popped up around school neighborhoods, according to the South China Morning Post.

Students gather at a smartphone cafe to play mobile games (Picture: Kankan News)

For just 1 yuan (16 US cents) an hour, customers can play on smartphones and tablets preloaded with the hottest games. One eatery offers a 10 yuan (US$1.57) package that also includes servings of tea with milk.

One elementary school kid told a reporter, “My mom won’t let me play games because she only wants me to study.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that their parents are not amused.

One mother said she confronted a cafe owner, accusing him of having “no moral standards”. Another said she intentionally didn’t buy her child a smartphone so he could focus on studying.

China is the world’s largest gaming market -- but the massive popularity of titles like Honor of Kings (known as Arena of Valor in the West) has prompted warnings from Chinese state media about the negative effects of gaming addiction on children.

Last year Tencent, the maker of Honor of Kings, responded to concerns by restricting playtime and imposing a curfew on users under the age of 18.