China console ban lifted, but new restrictions coming

China console ban lifted, but new restrictions coming
Seth Tipps

By Seth Tipps

January 14th 2014 at 4:19AM

Console sales 'fresh air,' but government still looking to 'block flies and mosquitoes'

The head of China's Ministry of Culture has explained the reasoning behind the government's decision to end its 14-year ban on foreign games consoles.

The embargo was temporarily lifted last week within the Shanghai free-trade zone, but new rules governing the sale of video game consoles and their content will be completed as soon as possible, said ministry head Cai Wu in a press conference attended by Bloomberg.

News that the ban was ending gave Nintendo's stock a boost and both Microsoft and Sony stand to gain a lot from the opening of the $10 billion dollar Chinese games market currently dominated by online PC games.

There is certainly a lot of hope in the possibility of a vibrant Chinese console market, but while Cai says that his government shouldn't “go beyond its duties to intervene in the commercial cultural market,” that doesn't mean there won't be restrictions.

“Things that are hostile to China, or not in conformity with the outlook of China’s government, won’t be allowed,” Cai said.

“We want to open the window a crack to get some fresh air, but we still need a screen to block the flies and mosquitoes.”

The Chinese government imposed the ban in 2000 on the grounds that console gaming was having an adverse effect on the country's youth.

Some have noted that the opening up of the free-trade zone doesn't mean as much as some might think – consoles have been available on the “grey market” for years.

That's certainly a valid argument from a consumer perspective, but for the companies that make consoles and associated games the news that their products can be sold on the open market is definitely exciting.