Business / Technology

PS4 aims for toehold in emerging market

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-03-30 07:48

PS4 aims for toehold in emerging market

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc President and Group CEO Andrew House (left) and Sony Computer Entertainment Japan and Asia President Hiroshi Kawano (right) pose with a customer of Sony's PlayStation 4 video game console in this file photo.[Provided to China Daily]

Sony Corp's PlayStation 4 debuted in China on March 20. While the Chinese consoles are physically identical to those Sony sells worldwide, they have no access to music, TV shows and movies, and a library of just six games approved by authorities. That's compared with almost 200 titles on Japan's PlayStation Store. Chinese players won't have Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, the top-selling games last year, according to

Sony and Microsoft Corp-drawn to a market that International Data Corp forecasts will reach $22 billion in 2017-are entering China after the government lifted a 14-year ban. The companies must convince a generation of gamers who grew up with free-to-play titles on smartphones and computers to buy consoles that cost more than the average worker's monthly disposable income.

The PS4, which increasingly utilizes cloud-based gaming services such as PlayStation Plus, must also contend with Internet controls, as well as restrictions on violent, sexual and political content.

"The traditional game business model has no upside when it comes to China because most gamers are on PCs and not used to paying $60 per title," said Atul Goyal, a Singapore-based analyst with Jefferies Group LLC. "Digital is the only future for China. Even if Sony sells a million units, we would have to look at the uptake of its paid PlayStation Plus."

The service, which allows PS4 users to play online and costs about $10 a month in the United States, will be available with limitations in China, said Takehito Soeda, who oversees PlayStation's strategy in the country. He declined to elaborate or provide a price.

"PlayStation is first a gaming device, and that's what we are focusing on for the launch," Soeda said. "We are also considering opportunities when it comes to social networks popular with Chinese users. Video services require a bit more study because that's a tightly controlled area."

Buyers started lining up outside the Sony store in Beijing's Oriental Plaza mall at 7 am on March 20. When the gate opened three hours later, more than two dozen shoppers walked straight to the counter to buy the consoles.

First in line was Alex Liu, a 21-year-old college student who spent 4,900 yuan ($792) on the console, a game called Dynasty Warriors, and a hand-held PlayStation Vista.

Liu said he already spent more than 10,000 yuan on foreign versions of the console and games, including most of the six titles released in China. Still, he wanted the Chinese versions.

"I believe in the future of PS4 in China," Liu said. "I came to support Sony so they can bring more games next year and the year after. Online games can never meet all of our needs."

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