China Ending 13-year Ban on Video Game Console Sales

China will be opening a free trade zone in Shanghai to allow console companies to sell their hardware in the country, ending a ban from 2000. China warns console makers might want to be careful what business models they follow.
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China is many things to many people.  One thing that rarely comes up in day-to-day conversation is the fact that video game consoles are banned from sale there.  The original reason given was the Chinese government being worried the digital entertainment devices would be a bad influence on children.  After thirteen years, the ban’s ending is in sight.

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The Chinese government has confirmed they will be opening a free trade zone in Shanghai to allow console makers to sell approved products within the country.  The zone will open on October 1, but the newly opened zone also comes with a cautionary warning from the state.

The ban has not prohibited owning consoles, so people have been able to get them from nearby countries like Japan.  Nevertheless, console gaming is still secondary to mobile gaming by a wide margin, and the Chinese government warns foreign console companies that they will probably need to be careful what business models they try to follow as a direct result.

To quote Xue Yongfeng from the Beijing research firm Analysis International,

The price of these console games is quite high. Chinese gamers will be willing to pay for the console hardware, but they don’t have a habit of buying expensive games.

Chinese gamers are, put bluntly, used to free-to-play games.  They get some fun in on even the most predatory games before they have to decide whether or not to invest money in them.  This might make the price of individual console games unattractive to the majority of their gaming public.

For gamers in most countries worldwide, the cost of console games is taken largely for granted.  We complain about it, but most of the discussion of cost with consoles focuses on the cost of the consoles themselves.  Just look at the excitement after E3 when the prices for PS4 and Xbox One were both announced.

Everyone was going wild about how PS4 was cheaper.

No one talked about how the games themselves are almost certainly going to cost the same.  If you factor in the cost of the games, the price difference is effectively only a single game.

Microsoft has already made a deal to start distributing in China, but it still remains to be seen what business models companies will use and how successful they will be.

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Writer, gamer, and generally hopeful beneath a veneer of cynicism.