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Govt lifts ban on video gaming consoles

2014-01-08 10:06 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

The State Council announced the ban on selling foreign video gaming consoles has been lifted in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, a move analysts said Tuesday will not only open up a huge market for firms like Sony and Microsoft, but also benefit the country's gaming industry.

A statement posted by the State Council on Monday said that foreign-invested enterprises within Shanghai free trade zone can now manufacture gaming consoles in the zone and sell them in China after their products have been inspected by cultural authorities.

Xue Yongfeng, a gaming industry analyst with Beijing-based research firm Analysys International, says that the policy will gradually become more open in the future, which is great news for the country's gaming market.

Large demand for gaming consoles fueled a black market soon after the ban was issued in 2000, citing game consoles' negative effect on teenagers' healthy psychological development.

"Thanks to the policy, domestic gaming players can finally obtain famous gaming consoles through a legal venue. And with the cooperation of foreign top players in the sector, domestic gaming companies will be able to improve their capabilities in game development," Xue from Analysys told the Global Times Tuesday.

International console makers, including Sony and Microsoft, have long had the intention of gaining a foothold in China's promising gaming market.

Data released at China's annual games industry conference in December showed that the country's PC, online and mobile video game market rose 38 percent from 2012 to 83.17 billion yuan ($13.74 billion) in 2013.

Microsoft refused to reveal the date for the official release of its Xbox console in China in an interview with the Global Times Tuesday, but said "we look forward to exploring new opportunities to bring entertainment and gaming offerings to China via participation in the Shanghai free trade zone expansion."

A joint venture between the company and China's first listed broadcasting new media content provider BesTV New Media Co has been registered in the zone in September, 2013.

Sony had also said it was planning to access China with "great interest" in September, according to media reports.

But Xue noted that in the future only high-end consumers, accounting for less than 20 percent of total gamers, will choose more expensive game consoles like Xbox, as more people have gotten used to playing games on smart devices.

Domestic players also expressed interest in the cabinet's move. Chris Shen, vice president of domestic online game developer The9 Limited, told the Global Times that his company is waiting for specific regulations to be issued, expecting to cooperate with game console makers in developing related games.

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