After 14 years of prohibition, the Chinese government has lifted a ban on the sale of foreign consoles inside the country’s border. This opens the door for Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony to tap in the multi-billion market — though the companies have already admitted it won’t be easy.
It’s so far unclear exactly how far the suspension will go. In a statement posted online Monday, the government said it would allow “foreign-invested enterprises” to manufacture consoles within Shanghai’s free trade zone and sell them in China. It does not, however, say how long the suspension will last or offer details about any other regulations on the industry. The ban went into place in 2000, after China’s government said video games had an adverse effect on the mental health of the youth.
Vague as it may be, the suspension of the ban is also not a terrible surprise. As China saw video game revenues grow by nearly a third from 2012 to 2013 to become a near $US14 billion industry, it’s become increasingly obvious that there was more growth to be had. Without consoles, PC games make up two-thirds of the video game market, and there’s no telling how big the industry could get under a more open policy. Furthermore, the government quietly announced intentions to lift the ban last summer to open up more jobs in the Shanghai area.
Nevertheless, the console companies are being cautious about celebrating too soon. “We are still not sure exactly what we will be able to do in Shanghai, and thereafter in Greater China,” Nintendo’s Yasuhiro Minagawa told Reuters. “Both with hardware and software, there are many things we have to look into and so we can’t say anything concrete.” When tens of billions of dollars are on the line, though, you can be sure they’re scurrying to firm things up. [Reuters]