In a move designed to boost the financial and cultural relevance of its Shanghai Free Trade Zone, China will lift a 13-year long ban on video game and console sales, according a document released by its State Council. The document states that game companies like Sony and Nintendo will now be allowed to sell games and consoles throughout the country, on the condition that the companies establish joint venture operations in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. The FTZ is China’s attempt to create a cultural and financial hub in Shanghai that might one day match or surpass cities like New York and London. The products released by gaming companies must first meet the guidelines of China’s Ministry of Culture before hitting the market.
In 2000, China placed a ban on the sale of video games due to concerns over the impact of game violence on children. Although popular consoles have been easy to locate and purchase in China during the nearly decade-and-a-half ban, the companies that make those consoles have been forbidden from marketing their products to Chinese consumers. Thus, the game-playing Chinese public has largely embraced mobile, PC, and social media gaming in the interim.
Until now, Nintendo has only been able to break into Chinese gaming with its handheld devices, releasing some exclusive 3DS XL consoles there in 2012 through their publishing partner, iQue. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all stand to make huge profits from China’s decision to lift the ban, as the Chinese video game market is estimated at a multi-billion dollar value.