The race for the Chinese gaming console market is on. After the repeal of a 14-year ban that prohibited the sale of gaming consoles, Microsoft confirms that the Xbox One will launch in the People’s Republic of China this September.
“On behalf of the entire Xbox team, we are incredibly excited to bring Xbox One and the next generation of games, entertainment, online education and fitness to China,” Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi said. “Launching Xbox One in China is a significant milestone for us and for the industry, and it’s a step forward in our vision to deliver the best games and entertainment experiences to more fans around the world.”
The Xbox One will be the first gaming console to officially be sold in China since 2000. It won’t be alone for long though; Sony has already announced its intention to bring the PlayStation 4 to Chinese shores, and it recently opened a new office in Japan dedicated to coming up with strategies specifically for the Chinese market. Both Microsoft and Sony will still need to adhere to the strict rules imposed by the Chinese governments, but the potential is high.
In 2013, the gaming industry in China saw revenue of over $13 billion, a 38-percent increase over 2012. According to Microsoft’s estimates, close to a half a billion people in China play games, which means there are currently almost as many active Chinese gamers as there are people in all of North America combined. The challenge for companies like Microsoft and Sony will be to convince those gamers to leave their PCs – the dominant gaming platform in the country – and embrace a new type of hardware that most have never been exposed to.
To help expand its profile and bring authorized content to the Xbox One, Microsoft is partnering with BesTV, one of China’s leading providers of home entertainment electronics and VOD services. BesTV’s subsidiary Funshion provides media content in a manner similar to Hulu and Netflix, and a recent partnership between it and Microsoft — dubbed E-Home Entertainment — was announced in 2013.
“Our joint venture is committed to providing opportunities for creators to unleash their imaginations for games, online education and fitness experiences for China and beyond,” Medhi said. “As part of our partnership, E-Home Entertainment is investing to establish an innovation program that will enable creators and developers to build, publish, and sell their games on Xbox One in China and in other markets where Xbox is available.”
Microsoft did not specify what it will offer along with the Xbox One when it releases, and the console will need to follow the guidelines laid out by the Chinese Ministry of Culture. Any games released will need to be approved before they can be sold, and not all Xbox One games currently available or planned for release prior to the September launch will be approved. Battlefield 4, for instance, has already been banned due to negative depictions of China.
We reached out to Microsoft for clarification on how the Chinese restrictions may change the company’s current development model and what games may be part of the launch, but were told Microsoft did not have any additional information to share at this point.