The Xbox One heads to China

xbox one heads china gaming

For the first time since 2000, the Chinese government is considering allowing gaming consoles to be legally sold in China, according to a new report from Chinese tech site Sohu IT (and then recounted and translated by Kotaku). The ban on consoles technically lifted earlier this year, but any console manufacturer hoping to sell their wares in China is still subject to approval from China’s Ministry of Culture, meaning they would need to alter their products to conform with Chinese standards and then still be approved. The first console manufacturer through this process appears to be Microsoft, who are reportedly planning on releasing the Xbox One in China in late 2014.

Microsoft will be teaming up with Funshion, a Chinese VOD service in the vein of Netflix and Hulu. Funshion is owned by BesTV, who Microsoft recently announced a partnership with to bring “family games and related services” to China. The two companies have yet to announce what they are specifically working on, but they have spent nearly $80 million so far.

Even if the Ministry of Culture is willing to approve the Xbox One, there are still a lot of steps needed to bring the system to Chinese consumers. Microsoft will need to do more than simply localize the console, it will need to work with Chinese companies to provide approved content that accede to the Chinese standards. Games will need to be heavily censored for any mention of sex, drugs, excessive blood, organized crime, anything that insults China, and much, much more. With software though, the potential Chinese consumer base is significantly larger than that in Europe and the US combined, so Microsoft may elect to develop games specifically for the Chinese audience, as well as importing a handful of titles. After so many years without a legitimate console market in China though, the upside is huge.

china game console banBesides the ban, part of the reason consoles manufacturers have avoided the Chinese market is due to rampant piracy of both software and hardware. In 2003, Sony did managed to get the PlayStation 2 approved to sell, but it turned into a disaster due to piracy. How Microsoft will address that isn’t clear, but a bigger emphasis on direct downloads may help. 

The original console ban came down in 2000, when the Chinese government responded to concerned parents that were worried that console gaming would waste the minds of children. At least that was the official reason, but cultural issues were also a factor. Instead of killing, or even slowing gaming though, the move led to the explosion of online PC gaming. In 2012, the Chinese gaming industry topped $10 billion, and China is now the world’s largest online gaming market. In other words, the plan didn’t work exactly as China had hoped.

Even with the dominance of online gaming, the console market isn’t entirely dead in China – it’s just not legal. Console games are sold through what is known as the “Gray Market,” or the practice of selling banned products, essentially with immunity. The console ban is specifically for mainland China, and does not cover Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan, so there are several ways to get consoles into mainland China. The biggest for the average Chinese gamer playing on a console is more down to cost than the law. According to a report in the People’s Daily, which Kotaku cites, the average yearly income across China is under $6,000. This is certainly a big reason that free-to-play gaming and Internet cafes have exploded in China as well.

Although the report specifically mentions Microsoft, it seems likely that Sony and Nintendo are eyeing China’s 1.35 billion citizens as a new, potential customer base. The PlayStation 4 released in Hong Kong today, and will debut in Taiwan tomorrow. So even if the console isn’t approved, it will find its way to the mainland thanks to the Gray Market. Consoles that are legally endorsed may not be far off.

(Image credit: Eric Jou of Kotaku)


Apple banned from distributing some iPhone models in Germany

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Watch China’s moon mission touch down on the planet’s far side

Video has been shared of a lander's-eye view of China's Chang'e 4 mission touching down in the Von Kármán Crater on the far side of the moon. The craft captured footage of the descent with a camera which was attached to the probe.

Get extra life with our tips and tricks for 'New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe'

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a much more difficult game than you'd believe based on its adorable art style and 2D perspective. Here's how you can master the game's toughest challenges.

Find all of the secret exits and world skips in 'New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe'

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe has two distinct Mario experiences in one package. In this guide, we'll show you how to find all of the secret exits in New Super Mario Bros. U, that lead to hidden levels and let you skip worlds.

For Netflix, ‘Fortnite’ on YouTube is a bigger threat than HBO

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix explained that it views the video game Fortnite as bigger competition than HBO, with YouTube videos of the game drawing viewers away from the streaming platform.

Find all of the secret exits and world skips in 'New Super Luigi U Deluxe'

Just like all other 2D Mario games, New Super Mario Bros. Deluxe includes secret exits and world skips. In this guide, we'll show you how to get to all 12 secret exits in New Super Luigi U.

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.

You could be gaming on AMD’s Navi graphics card before the end of the summer

If you're waiting for a new graphics card from AMD that doesn't cost $700, you may have to wait for Navi. But that card may not be far away, with new rumors suggesting we could see a July launch.

Sharing your best gameplay moments is quick and easy on the Xbox One

The current generation of consoles make it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.

Blizzard’s latest hiring spree is likely for the unannounced ‘Diablo 4’

Activision Blizzard is hiring for more than a dozen positions on unannounced Diablo projects. Some of the roles are likely for the unannounced Diablo 4, the next mainline entry in the series.

Everything we know about 'Red Dead Online', including the new mode Gun Rush

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.