The 1.35 billion people in China represent an enormous, untapped market for console gaming. Today, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony might have hope that they can soon start selling their systems in that massive market … but new regulations could dampen those hopes.
Yesterday, the Chinese government revealed it is temporarily lifting the ban on the sale of foreign game consoles, as first reported by Reuters. Those rules, which China put in place in the early 2000s, prohibited console manufacturers from selling their products within the country.
While China is dropping the old ban, this doesn’t mean that Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have a clear path to sell the Wii U, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One, respectively, to the Chinese consumer. The country’s government still won’t permit the import of dedicated home-gaming devices until the cultural ministry dictates new regulations.
The Chinese government first revealed in September that it would potentially permit foreign enterprises to sell game devices, and yesterday’s announcement expanded on that.
“[We will] temporarily stop carrying out the [old] regulation and wait until the Cultural Management Department of State Council makes the new, related regulation,” reads the updated announcement from government. This means that while the old rules are out, the country still won’t let in any new consoles until the State Council devises a new set of controls.
While these new ordinances could represent a potential opening for console gaming in China, analyst Lisa Hanson of Chinese market-intelligence firm Niko Partners is hesitant to call this a win for Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony.
“The new policy avoided any details,” Hanson told GamesBeat. “Therefore, we are still at ‘wait and see’ with regard to what the console market will entail in China. My guess is that it could be a good opportunity, but it will not look anything like the Western observers are anticipating.”
Hanson expects that even if China does permit gaming devices into its market, new regulations will still present the console makers with a labyrinth of red tape that they will have to weave through to actually sell a product to the Chinese people.
“In other words, sales, distribution, content, and pricing will all be tailored to the Chinese market per regulations that are yet to be defined, and we are confident that the hardware will need to conform to certain specifications, but those are not yet defined either.”
Until the relevant ministries come out and specify their requirements, China is still off-limits for console gaming.