China Lifts 14-Year Ban on Games Consoles
China; known for an authoritarian government, rapidly changing society and booming economy, the once-red state has bucked all expectations and has released its iron grip on the video gaming industry, lifting a fifteen-year ban on games consoles. The move comes as China aims to boost the development and growth of its Shanghai Free Trade Zone, an manufacturing and industrial hub the country is pushing in order to continue its now-faltering growth rates.
Consoles have been a dirty world in China since 2000, when the Chinese government, wanting to safeguard young Chinese individuals against the potential for laziness, wasted time and cited that games were “threatening state security, damaging the nation’s glory, disturbing social order and infringing on others’ legitimate rights.” Whilst console gaming is indeed very much capable of inciting every single one of those potential issues, the government seems to have seen the economic potential of games as outweighing these important national security risks.
That’s not to say that gaming isn’t popular in China though. The country’s gaming industry is worth $6 billion, thanks to the enormous and still-spreading popularity of MMORPGs, arcades and social network games in the country. Remember Farmville? That’s pretty much a like-for-like clone of Chinese developer 5 Minutes’ Happy Farm, which itself inspired a huge number of other Facebook games in the west. What’s more, the international appetite for games such as online bingo, played on international sites such as Betway, has similarly caught the passions of the game-loving Chinese. Despite the site being western in its conception, the site, which also offers users the ability to bet on a number of sports, matches and the like, isn’t covered by the Great Wirewall, being allowed to be played by citizens as a result. Due to this, and the proliferation of other providers in the state, the country’s casino gaming market is huge, dwarfing many richer, freer western nations. Whether there is a Chinese analogue for the bingo nicknames we know all too well remains to be seen.
This isn’t the first time the ban has been lifted though. Back in January 2014 the Chinese government allowed consoles to be sold as long as they were locally produced entirely within the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. Today though, even “foreign-invested enterprises” can set up roots anywhere in China and produce consoles, however it is understood a focus on the Shanghai FTZ will be pursued by the Chinese when dealing with Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, the companies that are looking to make the most out of the relaxing legal climate.
So what does the new deal mean for Chinese gamers? Unfortunately, not a great amount. 70% of Chinese gamers earn less than $634 a month – Xbox Ones sell for the price of around $500 in the USA, and games are around $60 – so it’s hard to see masses of disposable income being hurdled at the consoles. What’s more, many games the Chinese government deems not in the public interest will not be sold. Sexual themes, violence, anti-communist party rhetoric; none of these games will allowed to be produced, bought or played (unless gamers have black market links, of course).
Do you think consoles will be a good thing for China? Or is the changing legislation just a bunch of hot air? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.