China’s console ban has been in place for more than ten years; it will take a lot of effort to lift it.
According to the China Daily newspaper, the Chinese government may be considering lifting the ban on console imports. If this comes to pass, it will be a huge boon for the console makers, and share prices for the likes of Sony and Nintendo enjoyed a bounce as soon as the news was announced.
“We are reviewing the policy and have conducted some surveys and held discussions with other ministries on the possibility of opening up the game console market,” says an unnamed Ministry of Culture source, according to the China Daily. “However, since the ban was issued by seven ministries more than a decade ago, we will need approval from all parties to lift it.”
This unnamed source was contradicted moments later by another official source, this time speaking to Reuters, who claimed that there was no question of lifting the ban. Like the first, this second source went unidentified, save by the name Bai. It’s not clear which source is to be believed; possibly both, since the regulatory situation as it relates to gaming in China is, at best, murky.
The ban exists to save Chinese kids from themselves. “The government thought that was the best way to protect Chinese youth from wasting their minds on videogames,” said Lisa Hanson of Niko Partners. The production and sale of electronic gaming equipment has been illegal since 2000, but that hasn’t stopped the Chinese gaming market from growing. It’s done a lot to encourage piracy, and also smuggling, but that’s about it.
“Our stance towards business in China has not changed,” said Sony representative Yoshiko Uchiyama. “Of course, we acknowledge China as a promising market for our business, and we are always considering and preparing business opportunities and possibilities (in the country).” Cautious optimism, in other words, but given the difficulty of lifting the ban, never mind somehow forging ahead in a market used to piracy and gray market sales, it’s doubtful Sony – or anyone else – is anticipating a speedy resolution.