Censored: The difficulty with consoles in China

china console ban liftedIn the year 2000 China introduced a ban on games consoles fearing that they had a negative impact on the physical and mental development of children. During the ban many gamers moved over to mobile, PC and black market consoles. Finally after so long the Chinese government lifted the ban allowing the likes of Microsoft and Sony to enter into a potentially lucrative Chinese market.

Way back in the first quarter of the year, Sony released the Playstation 4 in China and whilst sales have been through the roof around the globe, it seems that one major obstacle continues to frustrate the Chinese market — Censorship. Playstation executive Andrew House said in an interview during the Tokyo Games Show that the rules were undoubtedly hurting sales.  Censorship certainly isn’t a new phenomenon to the games industry with a number of other nations imposing certain restrictions but the scale of the censorship rules in China certainly provides a few hurdles for Microsoft, Sony and games developers.

At the moment all game releases must be approved by the governments culture department with any that fail to abide by the restrictions being returned with a list of the breaches found.

Content not permitted in chinese releases includes:

  • Gambling-related content or game features.
  • Anything that violates China’s constitution.
  • Anything that threatens China’s national unity, sovereignty, or territorial integrity.
  • Anything that harms the nation’s reputation, security, or interests.
  • Anything that instigates racial/ethnic hatred, or harms ethnic traditions and cultures.
  • Anything that violates China’s policy on religion by promoting cults or superstitions.
  • Anything that promotes or incites obscenity, drug use, violence, or gambling.
  • Anything that harms public ethics or China’s culture and traditions.
  • Anything that insults, slanders, or violates the rights of others.
  • Other content that violates the law.

These restrictions  have resulted in  a number of features and games being absent from the Chinese market .  Microsoft too have endured a slow start with it being reported that they only sold 100, 000 units in their first week and analysts predict that both companies combined may fail to sell much over 500, 000 units together this year. It’s hard to imagine that Microsoft and Sony didn’t envisage a slow start and difficulties caused by the censorship rules but with a population numbering around 1.3 billion and growing, the two companies certainly aren’t going anywhere soon.

I imagine that both are working behind the scenes with government officials trying to reach a compromise on at least some of the rules.  Nintendo have yet to announce any plans to enter into the Chinese market but I wonder if they would perhaps be better placed to make an impact on the Chinese gaming scene with more of the library being more acceptable to the governments current rules? The developments over the next few years will be fascinating to watch especially if Nintendo do decide to enter the competition.

Words: Rob Pearce

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