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Nintendo stock surging after China lifts ban on consoles

Nintendo stock surging after China lifts ban on consoles

January 8, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

January 8, 2014 | By Alex Wawro
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

Newsbrief: Shares of Nintendo stock became significantly more valuable in the wake of yesterday's announcement that game consoles can now be officially sold in China.

The BBC reports that Nintendo's stock price rose nearly 11% yesterday, closing out at 15,580 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. That's the highest it's been since July 2011, when Nintendo drastically lowered the price of the 3DS and gave away free Virtual Console games as part of the "Nintendo Ambassador" promotion.

It's worth pointing out that while China's decision to lift the 13-year ban may allow consoles to be officially sold in the country, in practical terms little has changed -- most game consoles and handhelds have long been unofficially available on the Chinese gray market to anyone who knows where to look.

So are many console and handheld games, though they're often pirated versions of foreign games which lack the monetization hooks that have allowed PC and mobile games to move in and dominate the Chinese market. While Chinese game industry revenues grew to a reported $13 billion in 2013, only $15 million of that came from console games.

Nintendo may be able to shake off the restrictions of the iQue brand and start operating more freely in China, but console manufacturers -- and the Western publishers who support them -- likely face an uphill battle against entrenched subscription-based and free-to-play games that have been localized to appeal to Chinese players.

UPDATE: If you weren't already suspicious about the sudden uptick in mainstream attention to the Chinese government's nebulous agreement to allow game consoles to be manufactured in Shanghai's Free Trade Zone and sold across the country, Kotaku's regional correspondent published a cautionary note spelling out a few good reasons to rein in expectations.

We've reported on them before, but it's worth reiterating that even if Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo start manufacturing hardware in the FTZ, everything must be inspected and approved by Chinese authorities before it may be officially sold in China. That leaves plenty of room for regulators to censor or ban games and consoles from the country.

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