Will China end 13-year ban on video game consoles?

The China Daily reports that government officials are reviewing the longstanding prohibition. But there's still a lot of bureaucracy to be navigated before any change can take place.

Authorities in Beijing are considering allowing the likes of Sony and Nintendo to once again sell video game consoles in China, according to reports.

Video game consoles such as Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox were banned more than a decade ago over worries that video game playing could corrupt children and hamper their development. But now the China Daily says at least one governmental official believes that there is a possibility for gaming to once again hit the Chinese market.

An anonymous source from the Chinese Ministry of Culture told the publication:

"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. However, since the ban was issued by seven ministries more than a decade ago, we will need approval from all parties to lift it."

In another promising sign, Chinese regulators last fall gave a thumbs-up to the PlayStation 3 , saying it met safety standards for electronic devices.

Video game consoles were banned in 2000. Since the Chinese market -- a tantalizingly lucrative one, given the size of the country's population -- was taken off the books for companies including Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, corporations have tried to find a loophole to gain access to this source of customers.

However, considering the success of mobile devices that can be used for gaming, including smartphones and tablets, it may not be a surprise that the Chinese government is beginning to have a change of heart. There is a black market for game consoles in China, so if the government wishes to take control and also have a potential new source for tax and revenue, giving permission for such consoles to be sold legally may be the only option.

The report sent shares of hardware firms including Sony and Nintendo rocketing at the end of last week; Sony's shares alone surging over 8 percent, the highest rate since April last year.

However, it may not all be good news for console developers. Speaking to Reuters, a different official from China's Ministry of Culture categorically denied the report, saying that the ministry is "not considering lifting the ban."

 

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