PS4, Xbox to battle it out in China after Beijing finally lifts console ban

PlayStation 4. Pic: AP.

PlayStation 4. Pic: AP.

After 15 years out in the cold, gaming console giants Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. will finally be able to battle it out in China’s massive gaming market after Beijing lifted a ban on sales of PlayStation and Xbox consoles.

China’s Ministry of Culture said Monday that consoles produced in the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone will automatically be approved for sale in the rest of China.

The ministry banned console sales in 2000 due to concern Chinese children would waste time playing video games.

Microsoft's Xbox One. Pic: AP.

Microsoft’s Xbox One. Pic: AP.

The lifting of the ban has been expected since last year when the ban was lifted in the Shanghai FTZ. The Shanghai trade zone was created in 2013 and has more liberal rules on foreign companies in a range of industries, including bigger ownership stakes and activities that are prohibited elsewhere in China.

Not surprisingly, Sony and Microsoft have confirmed that they will manufacture PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles in the FTZ, opening up access to tens of millions of new gamers.

It remains to be seen if access to the Chinese market can help further boost the Xbox, which has been seeing better sales lately after a shaky start.

The lifting of the ban is not only big news for console makers, it is also likely to provide a significant boost for game developers and publishers worldwide.

Despite PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP estimating that China’s video game industry could be worth over $10 billion, it could still prove a tough nut to crack for the console makers. At current retail rates, many Chinese gamers would struggle to afford a PS4 or Xbox One, while there is already an well-established PC gaming culture in the country.

Additional reporting from Associated Press