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Game consoles are go in China, as government sets regulations
Game consoles are go in China, as government sets regulations
April 21, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

In January, the Chinese government lifted its 13-year ban on video game consoles -- pending the drafting of rules that companies will have to follow to sell them in the country. As of today, those rules have been released.

Kotaku's Eric Jou reports that consoles can now be sold in the country, citing a detailed People's Daily story (Chinese language) on the new guidelines.

What's not quite clear yet is what will happen next, as none of the big three console manufacturers -- Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft -- have announced plans to release products in China.

That hasn't stopped the news from affecting Nintendo's stock price, however. Microsoft has entered into an Xbox-related joint venture, however, though its plans are yet unannounced. Sony has also formed a new "China Strategy Department" with an eye to selling products in the country.

Chinese companies are also planning to get in on the action, with two different consoles announced this year so far, by Chinese manufacturers ZTE and TCL.

Will the lifting of the ban have a big effect? Market researcher Lisa Hanson, who visited Microsoft's partner BesTV last year, isn't so sure, as she writes in this blog post after her visit.

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Thibaud de Souza
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As one of the linked articles highlights: "most game consoles and handhelds have long been unofficially available on the Chinese gray market to anyone who knows where to look."

Places where you can buy consoles in China aren't hidden or semi-secret. Nor is there an illegal feel to them. Likewise the price of games/devices... Regardless, this sounds like big, big news to me.

matthew hager
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To even call them available on gray markets is selling it short. One street away for where I live in Shanghai is an electronics store where PS3's and Vita's are clearly visible from the street to anyone walking past. To be even more blatant the store is about a five minute walk from the police station. This is the rule not the exception.

As with any "ban" the importance is to what level it was enforced, in this case it was pretty close to 0%, the government simply does not care.

Regarding the second point I have to disagree that this is big, big news. The Chinese gaming market is just not one that will embrace the console market.

There are two types of game players in China, people who do all or most of their gaming on public transportation and mostly play F2P mobile games or the Vita (PSP last gen) and PC gamers who play MMO's or MOBA's most of which are also F2P and a lot of these people play at internet cafes instead of buying their own PCs.

Neither of these two consumers are going to be interested in consoles. The first demographic, of which my mother-in-law is one, won't even know that these things exist and the PCs gamers have no reason to switch, most of the games they play won't be one the consoles and the price point for the system or the games is not what they are used to playing.

I'm not saying that China will never get there but if you look at the success of movies in China recently you will see that it took decades for the culture of China to change to the point where people now want to go out and spend money watching movies at the cinema. A great statistic is that the 3D re-release of Titanic last year made more in three days than the original made in its entire run. It is possible that given time the culture around games could change as well but it is a long way off.

The only change that is occurring now is that Sony. Microsoft and Nintendo will be able to advertise their products and show them more front and center and of course that will bring more sales than without it, but there will be a huge gulf between China's potential console market and what that market actually turns out to be. In the grand scheme of things the Chinese market, at least for the time being, will remain small.