The Chinese government has temporarily lifted its ban on video game consoles, reports the BBC, opening the door for machines like Microsoft's Xbox One, Sony's PS4, and Nintendo's Wii U. Consoles will have to be made within Shanghai’s free trade zone, and undergo inspection by cultural departments. There’s no word on how long the ban will be lifted for.
This might seem like a massive boon for the games industry, but there’s reason to be cautious. While China is a massive market for video games, the console model is going to face some serious problems. China has gone all in for free to play PC and mobile games since the console ban, meaning that there’s already a strong gaming culture, just not with AAA console titles. Console manufacturers will need to make a strong case to the average Chinese gamer for why this particular vision of the gaming industry is worth it.
On top of that, most Chinese workers don’t earn every much money, and certainly not enough to make a big console purchase lightly. There are, of course, richer people in china, but I have a feeling that those with sufficient resources and inclination may have already found their way around the ban. A work
Microsoft has been working with Chinese partner BesTV on a new console built from the ground up for the Chinese market, and that may be the best way to go here. It’s a different market, and a large one, so it’s worth the time and effort to figure out the best way to engage them with consoles.
Done right, this could be a major shot in the arm for the companies willing to figure out how to make it work, but it’s not so simple as waltzing into a mall and starting to hawk Xbox Ones. In some ways, China might be able to point the way for the industry at large by helping these companies figure out how F2P and AAA sensibilities can better coexist.