China May Lift Ban on Game Consoles, Kill Black Market

According to a report from China News Daily, authorities in China are contemplating the ban on game consoles imposed in 2000.

“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 added.

The game console ban was put into action for fear of potential harm in the physical and mental development of children.  Seven Chinese ministries collectively banned game consoles from major manufacturers such as Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony.

A closed market

In the past decade, these major companies have tried everything to successfully infiltrate the Chinese market, but have failed.  While Sony and Microsoft still managed to make headway China, game consoles are apparently not one of their offerings. That hasn’t kept others from trying.  Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE), a subsidiary responsible for Sony’s PlayStation business, set up a branch in South China’s Guangdong province.  Training, research and development will be conducted in the Guangdong branch.  As for Microsoft, the company has managed to introduce Kinect, the motion sensing input device used on the Xbox 360, but the company made it clear that the Kinect is not used for gaming, but for medical treatment and education.

The decade-long ban doesn’t mean game consoles are non-existent in China.  Just like in any country that imposes a ban on anything, these products can be bought on the black market.

Backdoor gaming

The first few things that comes to mind when I hear the term “black market” are Cuban cigars, human organs, weapons, animals and animal products — but not game consoles.  Game consoles on the black market may be a weird circumstance in some countries, but in China it’s just natural.

The Gulou (Drum Tower) area in Beijing’s inner city is the heart of the black market, and game store owners like Liu Shuo benefitted from the game console ban.  According to Liu, when Nintendo and Microsoft released their motion-sensing game consoles, he sold at least 10 of those each day since there wasn’t really a lot of competition.  Unfortunately, those days are over as more stores in first- and second-tier cities now sell games and game consoles to interested consumers.

So while the ministries contemplate on lifting the ban, the business of selling game consoles in the black market may soon be a thing of the past.