By Khurram Aziz | Nov 08, 2012 12:00 PM EST
China's decade-long ban on games consoles could be coming to an end after reports emerged that the Sony PlayStation 3 has received a certification of quality from a safety standards body there.
China outlawed video games consoles back in 2000, with authorities arguing the need to protect the well-being of young people.
But now the China Quality Certification Centre Web site is showing two models of the PlayStation 3 as having received approval.
Sony confirmed the news but wouldn't be drawn on whether its signature games console would be hitting store shelves, in the second largest economy in the world, any time soon.
"This does not mean that we have officially decided to enter Chinese market," said Sony spokeswoman Mai Hora. "We recognize that China is a promising market so we will continuously study the possibility."
China's anti-gaming attitude already seems anachronistic considering that online gaming and gaming on small devices, such as smartphones and tablets, is hugely popular.
The country is already speculated to be the biggest smartphone market in the world. A survey by market intelligence firm IDC in August claimed that by the end of the year, China will account for 26.5% of all smartphone shipments compared to the 17.8% share in the US.
Similarly, market research firm Pearl Research estimated in March that the online games industry in China grew by 32% in 2011 and will be worth $9.2bn by 2014.
The reality on the ground has led to a less hardline approach taken by Chinese authorities to video games.
This year Lenovo Group gained approval to launch its Eedoo CT510, a motion sensing device that plays games similar in concept to Microsoft's Kinect extension for the Xbox game console, by promoting it as an "exercise and entertainment machine".
However, some analysts speculate that the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will have a tough time breaking the entrenched habits of Chinese gamers.
"Games in China have different consumption habits," said Piers Harding-Rolls, senior games analyst at IHS Screen Digest in London.
"A lot of established gamers will use non-dedicated devices they have used over many years".
If Sony does decide to enter the potentially multi-billion dollar market, the Japanese company will also have to contend with entrenched domestic players such as Tencent and CMGE, which provide games for the mobile devices.
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