The Chinese Ministry of Culture has approved a law which ends its restrictions on console sales throughout the entire country, according to a report presented by the Wall Street Journal. Console manufacturers are now free to market and sell their products on the largest consumer market in the world, and second in video game revenue.
China had a longstanding ban on the sale of consoles since 2000, when the Ministry of Culture issued a notice banning the sale of electronic gaming devices or equipment on its country. According to video game market researcher Lisa Hanson, cited by Kotaku, the decision was taken due to parental outcry against the growing console market at the time, while also trying to protect the Chinese youth.
This had little effect as in the following couple of years the online video game market exploded in China, with eastern MMO’s like Legend of Mir, MapleStory and Lineage, and some western hits such as World of Warcraft gathered significant player bases, making it the largest online gaming market worldwide.
However, China was not completely devoid of the console phenomenon, as some developers such as Nintendo circumvented the ban by offering so called plug and play consoles – game consoles resembling controllers which could be connected to a TV and would have one pre-installed game, having to buy multiple pieces for different games. Nintendo classics such as Super Smash Bros, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64 have been ported on such consoles over the years.
But this wasn’t enough to start a console culture in China, as proven last year. The Ministry of Culture lifted the ban for consoles produced only in the Shanghai free trade zone, which was also the only eligible area for selling them. Despite the fact that Microsoft and Sony rushed to launch their latest consoles in late 2014, they registered poor sales, mostly due to their high price tags, and also for their lack of games due to strict Chinese censorship.
In China, video games have to be approved by the government for commercial sale, and most Xbox One and PlayStation 4 console games do not match the country’s harsh regulations at the moment. Famous landmark in game censorship were the banning of 2013’s Battlefield 4, which could possibly pit you against the Chinese military, being a playable faction in the game, and the remodeling of skeletons in World of Warcraft or DOTA 2– which, contrary to popular belief, isn’t a direct censorship request, but rather a choice made by respective developers to circumvent vague legislation (one of which forbids games which promote cults or superstitions).
Despite these hurdles, consoles still have huge potential in a gaming market worth over $22 billion. Their success will be limited in the beginning and might never reach that of online or mobile gaming, but they might lift China past the US in the list of the world’s top gaming markets.
Image Source: Value Walk