China has lifted its 14-year ban on selling video games consoles, potentially opening up the market to the likes of the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Wii U.In 2000, the country stopped consoles being sold, claiming they could be harmful to young people.
But China’s State Council has now said “foreign-invested enterprises” can make the machines at factories in Shanghai’s free trade zone and sell them subject to inspection by a government cultural department.
PC games currently dominate the $14bn (£8.5m) Chinese video games market, with free browser-based and mobile games also popular.
However, pricing could be a problem should manufacturers such as Sony and Microsoft decide to enter the market.
Many gamers in the country earn the equivalent of less than £100 per week, while the PS4 sells for £350 in the UK and the Xbox One is £429.
Console-makers reacted cautiously to the lifting of the ban, and it seems unlikely that a full-on assault on the Chinese market will happen any time soon.
Nintendo spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa said: “There are many things we have to look into and so we can’t say anything concrete.”
Satoshi Nakajima, from Sony Computer Entertainment, said: “We do recognise that China is a promising market, and we will continue to study the possibility.”
The lifting of the ban is also said to only be “temporary”, but officials have yet to clarify the statement.
Ironically, big-name consoles have been made in China for many years for export, with some machines inevitably finding their way on to the local black market.