China has officially overturned a 13-year ban on gaming consoles by allowing the production and sale of “gaming entertainment” in the newly created Shanghai Free Trade Zone.
The official pronouncement by the State Council on Monday will open the way for foreign companies like Microsoft and Sony to sell their wares nationwide from a base inside the zone.
However, it clarified that all gaming content would still be reviewed by the relevant “cultural authorities” – which probably means that bloody first-person shooter titles and any games with politically sensitive themes will still be banned in the Middle Kingdom.
The ban itself was first instituted back in 2000 as an attempt to protect the nation’s youth from unhealthy content.
However, as with many officially regulated aspects of Chinese society, a huge grey/black market soon flourished to supply both cut-price games and consoles to fans in the PRC, which the authorities largely left alone.
Whether Monday’s announcement now means Beijing will take a more hardline approach to unofficial consoles and games remains to be seen.
While it may feel such a move could make economic sense, it may be too late given the large numbers which have already invested in unofficial consoles.
As we’ve mentioned before at The Reg, foreign gaming giants like Microsoft and Sony may also struggle because the country’s players generally prefer massively multi-player online role-playing (MMORPG) and similar games which work better on PCs than consoles.
They’ll also face a challenge in the form of home-grown console makers such as the Lenovo-backed Eedoo. ®