Chinese Government To End 13-Year Console Ban?

By Alexandra Burlacu email: | Jan 28, 2013 10:39 AM EST

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China is reportedly considering lifting a ban on gaming consoles that has been in effect for more than a decade.

For nearly 13 years, the Chinese government has banned consoles in the country, but things may change soon.

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According to a new report in the China Daily newspaper, China is now reviewing its stance and considering lifting that ban. Shares of Nintendo and PlayStation-maker Sony went surging upon news of the ban lift. Nintendo climbed more than 3.5 percent on the Nikkei index, while Sony surged 8 percent higher.

"We are reviewing the policy and have conducted some surveys and held discussions with other ministries on the possibility of opening up the game console market," the China Daily quoted an unnamed source. "However, since the ban was issued by seven ministries more than a decade ago, we will need approval from all parties to lift it."

On the other hand, Reuters contacted an official at the ministry's cultural market department, which is responsible for the legislation, and got an entirely different response.

"The ministry is not considering lifting the ban," the official told Reuters.

The Chinese government implemented the console ban back in 2000, arguing that it wanted to protect children's mental and physical well-being. Mobile and online games are wildly popular in China despite the ban on dedicated gaming consoles, but game makers must always ensure that games comply with strict government requirements. Otherwise, they risk having their games banned.

Requirements typically include offering anti-addiction features to monitor how long a gamer has been playing and warn them to take breaks for their health's sake. Gamers, in turn, have to use their real name and ID number to verify their identity and age. That data is checked against a government database.

The official at the Chinese ministry's cultural market denied the rumor, but Reuters noted that back in November, Sony's PlayStation 3 got a quality certification from a Chinese safety standards body. That certification in turn sparked off rumors that the government was considering a ban lift.

Moreover, last year, China's Lenovo was able to launch a motion-sensing device similar to Microsoft's Kinect Xbox, which again signaled a potential policy change. Lenovo's Eedoo CT510 was marketed as an "exercise and entertainment machine."

While video game consoles are still banned in China, online gaming and mobile gaming are both very common in the country. It remains uncertain for now just how long the ban will stay in place, but signs point towards more leniency from the Chinese government. 

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