by Aura Altamiranda
Fourteen years had elapsed since the video game console ban was placed on China by the Chinese government—particularly China’s Ministry of Culture. This ban began in 2000 under the concern that video game content had negative effects on their people. By 2003, a slowly progressive shift began to move away from the ban.
In recent years, and more so in January of last year, elements of the ban were called off for select companies, but certain restrictions were maintained. This lift allowed the possibility for only select businesses to expand to another part of the world. The Shanghai Free-Trade Zone had been established in 2013 as an economic and social testing environment through which any new products from these companies and others would undergo an extensive vetting and approval process. Video game consoles and games were among these products.
In the past decade and a half, gaming resources have been restricted to computers and mobile devices as well as the black market to gain access to otherwise unattainable gaming resources, but with the new allowances, gamers are able to legally purchase consoles commonly sold and used in Western markets. Manufacturers will now even be able to manufacture within the country although, depending on cost, they may or may not be well received by the gaming population. The full lift of the ban has been approved this summer, but even so, this doesn’t mean the elimination of censorship. It has been speculated that this may be a move on the government’s behalf to relinquish control over a market they have deemed has no harmful effects on younger generations while also attempting to turn the country’s attention away from Internet use. Although this certainly opens up a new market for this industry, China’s censorship restrictions have made it increasingly difficult due to the mature content of many video games.
In any case, companies such as Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft now have new territory to expand their business in and China has a new source of supply and demand to infuse into its economy; during the initial lift, Nintendo stock prices slightly jumped, proving interest in this market. The challenge now will be determining how to stay afloat amid the rigid censorship in the country, likely in developing games that will be governmentally-approved and giving up on M-rated games in China.
All of this is only considering the legal selling of video game consoles and their respective games; the years have not gone by without the inevitable existence of illegal markets, which provided for the Chinese population in the meantime and gave accessibility to these forbidden items.