China is considering lifting its 12-year ban on game consoles according to a report in Chinese newspaper China Daily. The report cites an anonymous source from the Ministry of Culture who says that the department is looking at the moratorium.
“We are reviewing the policy and have conducted some surveys and held discussions with other ministries on the possibility of opening up the game console market,” the source is quoted as saying. “However, since the ban was issued by seven ministries more than a decade ago, we will need approval from all parties to lift it.”
Responding to Reuters, however, an official at the ministry’s cultural market department, identifying themselves only as Bai, stringently denied that the department was considering lifting the ban.
Even so, the resultant speculation has caused a sharp hike of Nintendo and Sony shares – the former gaining over 3.5 per cent on the Nikkei index, and the latter rising 8 per cent. The report builds on rumours started when PlayStation 3 gained a quality certification from a Chinese safety standards body last November.
“Our stance towards business in China has not changed,” Sony Computer Entertainment spokesperson Yoshiko Uchiyama told Reuters. “Of course, we acknowledge China as a promising market for our business, and we are always considering and preparing business opportunities and possibilities [in the country].”
The ban on dedicated consoles was put in place in 2000, authorities justifying the move by saying they wanted to protect children’s mental and physical wellbeing. Of course, the market has voraciously consumed mobile and online PC games in the big three console’s stead.
While the re-introduction of consoles to China would open up a potentially vast new market to manufacturers, they will face a challenge marketing pay upfront games in a region so enamoured with free-to-play. Games like CCP’s Dust 514, however, could find potentially huge playerbases.