Chinese authorities are reviewing a decade-long ban on game consoles and considering the possibility of opening up the country's video game hardware market, a government source told China Daily.
Because of fears of the potential harm to the physical and mental development of the young, seven Chinese ministries collectively banned the manufacture, sale and import of game consoles in China in 2000.
Major game console vendors across the world, including Microsoft Corp, Nintendo Co and Sony Corp, made several attempts but failed to find a way to enter the Chinese mainland market officially.
"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," a source from the Ministry of Culture, who asked not to be named, said.
"However, since the ban was issued by seven ministries more than a decade ago, we will need approval from all parties to lift it," the source said.
Rumors have circulated in the Chinese media that some international companies have already sensed the government's changing attitude. They hope to figure out the Chinese authorities' intentions so they can make a rapid response, analysts said.
Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE), a subsidiary responsible for Sony's PlayStation business, set up a branch in South China's Guangdong province in June last year. The Guangdong branch will conduct training and research and development work for Sony.
Microsoft introduced its Kinect, a controller-free game console, to the Chinese mainland in October last year. However, Zhang Yaqin, chairman of Microsoft Corp's Asia-Pacific Research and Development Group, said Kinect is not used for games in China but for other purposes, such as medical treatment and education.
"Kinect's entry into China does not mean Microsoft's game console has come to China. Currently, we don't have a timetable for our game consoles entering the Chinese market. It needs government's approval," Zhang told China Daily at the end of last year.
Zhang has frequently expressed Microsoft's eagerness to bring game console products to the mainland. "We hope to launch the Xbox (in the mainland market) as soon as possible," Zhang said at the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference (Chinajoy), an online gaming fair in Shanghai.
Although China is the world's biggest manufacturing base for Microsoft's Xbox game console, the product suffers from both market inaccessibility and piracy problems in China.