China is finally ending a ban on gaming consoles that has proven to be a real hindrance to companies like Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. But before you ask, “I thought China already lifted the ban?” you have to realize that Chinese regulatory agencies only allowed consoles to be sold within the country if they were manufactured within the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.
Now that Chinese officials have had a change of heart, manufacturers (both foreign and domestic) are free to build and sell their consoles anywhere within the country. Needless to say, console manufacturers are elated at the possibility of tapping into the Chinese gaming market without being stymied by miles of bureaucratic red tape. Unfortunately, China’s newfound graciousness likely won’t translate into a sudden surge in console sales.
We have to consider that since the original console ban was put into place back in 2000 to protect China’s youth from the “horrors” or console gaming, most have turned to PCs to get their gaming fix. In addition, China also most approve the games that are sold within the country, which greatly limits the number of AAA titles that are accessible by gamers. Consider this; as of July 1, only 31 console games had been approved for sale by the Chinese government — THIRTY ONE! Another 20 tiles are under consideration, and officials hope to approve at least 100 games a year by 2017. That’s steady progress, but it’s likely not enough to light a fire under China’s enormous gaming population that prefers gaming with a keyboard and mouse rather than a big screen TV and wireless controller.
Despite the lingering restrictions, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft gaming console sales can only go up from here. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are projected to sell a combined 550,000 units in China for all of 2015 (these projections were released before the ban was lifted). However, Sony is expected to sell a staggering 34 million PS4s and Microsoft 20 million Xbox Ones during the same period worldwide.