Xbox One finally debuts in China

But at the moment only 10 games are available to Chinese consumers -- Master Chief, where are you?

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

The Xbox One has landed in China, months after Beijing lifted its ban on foreign-made game consoles. Microsoft

Microsoft's Xbox One has finally landed in China, though at least a few popular games are off-limits due to government restrictions.

The launch kicked off Monday with a special limited edition of the gaming console dubbed "China Day One," according to Chinese website WPDang, as reported by WPCentral. Up for grabs across more than 4,000 retail outlets in China, this edition comes with the Kinect sensor and includes several free games, notably Kinect Sports Rivals, Forza Motorsport 5, Powerstar Golf, and Neverwinter Online.

Other titles available to Chinese gamers are Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, Dance Central Spotlight, Rayman Legends, Trials Fusion, Naughty Kitties, and Zoo Tycoon.

Peruse the list of the 10 current titles, however, and you won't see such popular games as Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Day Zero Edition, and Destiny. And there's a reason for that. Games must be approved by the Chinese government before consumers can get their hands on them. But Chinese regulators are wary of games with violent content, according to Bloomberg. And that may prove problematic.

"I'm not interested in any of the 10 games provided on the Xbox now," one Chinese developer and Xbox One buyer said of the titles released in China. "I'm waiting for Halo and Titanfall."

Microsoft and its partner BesTV New Media do have a lineup of more than 70 games that they are striving to bring to China, including such titles as Halo and Killer Instinct, Microsoft spokeswoman Steffi Cao told Bloomberg. But will the government allow such games? Hideki Yasuda, a Tokyo-based analyst at Ace Research Institute. said that game companies may find it difficult trying to sell violent games with lots of shooting.

Asked about potential obstacles in trying to sell games in the Chinese market, a Microsoft spokesperson sent CNET the following statement:

While Microsoft strives to offer all the best games and entertainment content where Xbox One is sold, there may be certain games that are not available in certain territories from time to time. In China, our vision is to bring as much of the full Xbox One portfolio as possible. We are working hard to bring the content gamers want to see, while taking great care to meet regulatory standards. Critical to this effort is our strong local partnership with BesTV and our local and global relationships with developers.

The Xbox One edition with the Kinect is selling in China for 4,299 yuan ($700). That same edition sells in the US for $500. However, the actual hardware price is "unique to each market based on market conditions, tax, tariff and exchange rates," Cao said, adding that the games themselves will be less expensive in China.

China had previously banned sales of foreign-made game consoles, claiming that the devices caused mental harm to children. The country officially lifted the ban this past January. Still, Microsoft may face a rough time carving out enough of a gaming market in China, Nick Ning, an analyst at Shanghai-based 86Research, told Bloomberg.

The rising popularity of smartphone games presents a challenge to console-based games, the analyst said. Gamers will have to contend with the possible censorship of popular games. Chinese gamers are also used to playing games for free. And finally, consumers who wanted their hands on a gaming console and games were often able to snag them via the black market.

As such, consoles may grab only 5 percent of the gaming market, Ning projected.

Update 9:52 a.m. PT: Added comment from Microsoft.