Business / Technology

Time to play now!

By SHI JING (China Daily) Updated: 2015-03-30 07:25

Lifting ban gives game console makers a golden opportunity

Time to play now!

Visitors experience a virtual reality platform at an electronic entertainment expo in Taiwan. The console creates a 360-degree view that immerses game players in fantasy settings. The Chinese mainland has fully opened its door for gaming consoles.[Provided to China Daily]

The floodgates for both domestic and overseas gaming console providers have finally fully opened.

The State Council, or the cabinet, announced on Jan 29 that the reform experiences of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone will be promoted nationwide, which means that the ban on gaming consoles, which was lifted in the Shanghai FTZ in September 2013, will be rolled out nationwide. As a result, joint ventures in the FTZ and Chinese companies will be able to produce and sell gaming consoles in the country.

In 2000, the central government banned the production and sales of gaming consoles, amid concerns that they had a harmful effect on young people and could disturb social order.

But new hope was offered to the nation's struggling gaming industry with the framework policy of Shanghai FTZ, which was officially launched in September 2013. Approval for the production of sales of gaming consoles has been one of the highest-profile developments in the FTZ. The two industry giants, Sony Corp and Microsoft Corp, announced the release of their most celebrated devices later last year.

To ensure their success in the Chinese market, the two industry leaders both sought cooperation with a Chinese domestic company. Sony set up two joint ventures with A-share listed Oriental Pearl Group, while Microsoft worked with Shanghai-based BesTV New Media Co Ltd.

However, the sales figures were not that cheerful. Even though a total of 100,000 Xbox One devices were sold on the day the console was officially released in China, the annual sales target for the Chinese market in 2015 was only 1 million sets. But in the United States, 900,000 Xbox One sets were sold in the first month after the product was released.

Sony has experienced more turbulence. It had to postpone the planned Jan 11 introduction of its PlayStation 4 console in China to March 20 after Beijing asked for adjustments. Kaede Bun, a spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment Inc, said that the company's game unit needs time to make the changes, without elaborating on what was actually required.

Meanwhile, game players are disheartened by the limited choice of games available on the game console. Only 10 games are now available for Xbox One at present. Another five more games will be released in the Chinese market on April 9. For the newly released Sony PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vista, they are able to provide only six and seven games respectively.

But the companies seem to have foreseen the difficulties and still have enough faith in the market.

"With much faith and ambition, we have entered a brand new market, which might be filled with hardship and challenges. The Chinese gaming console industry is in its renaissance, and we are making efforts every day to lay the groundwork for the entire industry," said Xie Enwei, general manager of Microsoft China region.

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