China Lifts More Than Decade Long Ban on Foreign Video Game Systems

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 7 2014 11:19 AM

China Lifts More Than Decade Long Ban on Foreign Video Game Systems

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This is what China has to look forward to: Joey Chiu of Brooklyn accepts the first Playstation 4 sold in America.

Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images

The Chinese government announced on Monday it’s temporarily lifting a ban on the sale of foreign video game consoles in the country. And while surely to many American 11-year-olds a world without video games doesn't seem like much of a world at all, since 2000, companies like Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft haven’t been able to hawk their gaming wares in China. The reason for the ban? It’s not protectionism, or censorship, but, according to the BBC, the games’ “adverse effect on the mental health of young people.” Which actually seems like a well-reasoned point, no one ever credits extensive video game playing with increased mental (or physical) health.

But, that doesn’t mean that the game makers are going to be able to produce whatever they want. Here’s the operational plan, via Reuters: “The suspension of the ban permits ‘foreign-invested enterprises’ to make game consoles within Shanghai's free trade zone and sell them in China after inspection by cultural departments, the government's top decision-making authority, the State Council, said in a statement.”

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Because of the ban, PC and mobile games have dominated the lucrative gaming market in China, still the world's third largest, with PC gaming taking two-thirds of the $13 billion market, according the BBC. And it’s a market that’s growing fast—38% in 2013 from the previous year. But, Reuters notes, capturing the the hearts and minds of the Chinese gamer may be difficult as an entire generation of young people has grown up without Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox and the fact that the growth of free games on mobile devices and social networking sites has taken a bite out of the gaming industry’s bottom line.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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