But the Ministry of Culture wants a word before anything goes on sale.
China’s been gearing up to this for a while, and is about to take the plunge: game consoles will be available for sale in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. The Zone – made up of the Shanghai Waigaoqiao Free trade zone, Waigaoqiao bonded logistics zone, Shanghai Yangshan bonded port area and Shanghai Pudong airport – is about 11 square miles in Pudong, and is part of China’s ongoing effort to transform Shangai into the next global financial hub. It’s not just about games, it’s about trade, and the new FTZ is intended as much for financial services as it is for goods and manufactures.
The news comes courtesy of a Notice from the State Council of China, detailing the FTZ and how it’s supposed to work. As far as games are concerned, while foreign-funded enterprises are allowed to manufacture and sell their merchandise, the Culture Department reserves the right to review each product before it goes on sale. The original ban was intended to protect Chinese kids from themselves, and it’s possible – nobody knows how likely – the Culture Ministry will prefer the restrictive approach when it comes to whatever passes for certification in the FTZ. You may recall that, a few days ago, Microsoft and Shanghai-based BesTV reached an agreement; it’s likely that Microsoft knew this day was coming. Joint ventures, like the Microsoft-BesTV agreement, are the only way a foreign company can do business in the FTZ, and there are limits on how much stock ownership of the venture a foreign company can have.
But even with those limitations, China’s a huge market for any manufacturer or provider of services. To get into the FTZ, and thus have access to all those customers, is a dream come true for the likes of Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. There are billions at stake, and the only question now is, just how much restriction the Culture Ministry intends to put on the new FTZ gaming market.
Source: Hollywood Reporter