China lifts ban on consoles

Beijing had previously cited violence fears; Chinese games market worth $14bn a year

In spite of  restrictions, consoles such as Nintendo’s Wii were available to buyers in China, as many units were smuggled into the country. Photograph: Katie Collins/PA Wire

In spite of restrictions, consoles such as Nintendo’s Wii were available to buyers in China, as many units were smuggled into the country. Photograph: Katie Collins/PA Wire

 

Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony have finally gained the chance to enter China’s multibillion-dollar video game market, after the Chinese authorities lifted a 14-year ban on the sale of foreign-made consoles.

When it implemented the ban in 2000, the Chinese government had cited concerns about harmful effects that violent video games might have on the country’s youth.

But the relaxation of the measure, which was formalised yesterday, will allow foreign-invested enterprises to ship their products into the country from factories in Shanghai’s new free-trade zone.

Smuggled
In spite of the restrictions, Microsoft’s Xbox, Nintendo’s Wii, and Sony’s PlayStation consoles were available to buyers in China, as many units were smuggled into the country. In 2012, Lenovo, the Chinese technology group, unveiled its own home entertainment console, which it marketed as a family exercise device or “sports machine”, to circumvent the equipment import ban. The device was initially priced at more than $600, twice the cost of a comparable Xbox.

The ban also failed to dent the rapid rise of PC, internet and mobile gaming in China. Tencent, China’s most valuable internet company, now makes more than half of its $6.9 billion annual revenues from gaming.

Together, these activities feed a Chinese games market estimated to be worth $14 billion annually. Most of the world’s most popular consoles are made in China by contract manufacturers for export. – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014)