January 28, 2013

China's Long-Standing Video Game Console Ban may be Breaking


For the last 13 years in China, it's been impossible to find a game console in the country. Well, at least, not legally; the country has had an active ban on the devices since before the new millennium kicked off. But according to reports from China Daily, gaming consoles may well be welcomed into China once again. That's got console makers looking forward to what they hope is a brighter future.

Originally, China reportedly put the ban in place as a means to safeguard the health and well-being of China's children, saying that the devices might have been a threat to the mental and physical development of children. The newest reports are somewhat conflicting in nature, with an unnamed official with the Ministry of Culture saying that a review of the policies was underway, and that some discussions had taken place in regards to opening up the market to allow access once more. Meanwhile, an official at the ministry's cultural market department, identifying himself only as "Bai", said there was no such consideration going on.


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Last year, Lenovo had attempted something of an end run around the ban with its Eedoo CT510, billing the motion sensing device as an "exercise and entertainment machine," and the idea of gaming in China is quite prevalent on mobile devices and online. This at the same time provides something of a limited hope for game manufacturers; while there is certainly a brisk market to be had in gaming, and plenty of gamers in China, they're already gaming on other platforms so bringing in entirely new platforms can only have so much upside. After all, there will likely be plenty of Chinese gamers who say that their current breed of game platform is working just fine, so what sense is there in buying a new one?

This isn't the first that's been heard of China softening a stance on game consoles; recently the China Quality Certification Center issued safety certifications to two different models of PlayStation 3, which gave some hope that China would start allowing their citizens to buy a video game console if they felt like it. Now with conflicting reports emerging from the Ministry of Culture, it's starting to look ever more likely that China will have some new gamers in the field, a development that served as a shot in the arm for game companies, driving Sony shares up eight percent and Nintendo stock up 3.5 percent.

Access to the massive market that is China would represent a major new stroke for the gaming companies, and with the console wars still hot across much of the planet--not to mention new models likely to make appearances in the coming days--getting in on China would be a welcome development. China has a point in the impact of gaming on children, but much of this can be prevented with proper parenting skills. Requiring the child to get out and play or do their homework prevents much of the "mental and physical development" issues the Chinese had in mind when they placed the ban in the first place. This doesn't even address the issue of adults gaming, who wouldn't have any "mental and physical development" issues as their development has long since concluded.

Perhaps console gaming will make a resurgence in China. Perhaps such a resurgence would not be as pronounced as some would hope. But the development is still something to watch, and perhaps soon, we'll be playing our Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 deathmatches with the Chinese directly.




Edited by Brooke Neuman



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