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China lifts sales ban on foreign game consoles...for now

The move opens the door for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, but they'd face challenges tapping into the Chinese market, according to Reuters.

Microsoft's Xbox One.
Microsoft's Xbox One. Microsoft

China has suspended a 13-year-old ban against sales of foreign video-game consoles.

Pointing to a statement from China's State Council, Reuters reported Tuesday that "foreign-invested enterprises" will now be allowed to make game consoles within Shanghai's free trade zone and sell them to Chinese consumers after inspection by the country's cultural departments. The State Council didn't indicate how long the reprieve may last.

Even if the ban's suspension is permanent, though, console makers would face a range of challenges adapting themselves to the market, Reuters noted.

Chinese gamers are used to getting their video games for free and then paying only for add-ons and extra features. More than 70 percent of Chinese consumers earn around $634 per month, a Hong Kong-based brokerage firm told Reuters. That means most would be hard pressed to afford a $500 Xbox One or a $400 PlayStation 4.

Consoles currently sold in China also can run modified games, which cost around a $1 a piece. How many Chinese gamers would be willing to shell out up to $60 for an Xbox or PlayStation title?

Console makers also seem uncertain about entering the Chinese market. A Nintendo rep told Reuters that the company isn't sure what it will be able to do in Shanghai. A Sony spokesman called China a "promising market" but said the company will "continue to study the possibility."