Recently, China lifted its ban on gaming consoles. This is potentially huge news on the gaming scene, especially for PC. James looks at the potential ramifications…
With Valve now rolling out the first batch of its much anticipated Steam Boxes, one has to ask the question that every serious PC gamer would loath to hear, are they simply attempting to flog a dead horse? Everyone knows that PC gaming has suffered over the years as more and more gamers flock towards the more cost effective consoles that dominate the gaming industry, but in China, the populace there hasn’t had the option to pick and choose their gaming platform of choice, until now that is, and that decision may very well leave the future of PC gaming hanging in the balance.
Since banning video game consoles from the country in 2000, PC gaming has flourished in China, rising to account for two-thirds of the £8 billion per year global industry, but this ban has now been lifted, albeit temporarily, and whilst Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are all eyeing up the potential revenue that this new decision might bring in to them, very little attention is paid to what damage it could potentially have for PC gaming. However, a stay of execution has been granted, as the Chinese State Council have decreed that only consoles manufactured within Shanghai’s free trade zone would be sold in the country-after passing an inspection conducted by Chinese officials – and this is a potential stumbling block, especially for Nintendo and Sony who have their own manufacturing plants. Microsoft, on the other hand, find themselves in a rather unique position.
Without the constraints that hold back their opposition, they could very well move in to secure the services of an independent contractor within the area and employ them to develop its Xbox consoles exclusively for the region, but whether they do or not, is a decision that will ultimately take some time to make. The government could naturally overturn this decision and reintroduce a console ban again, making any moves to tap into a market thought be valued in excess of $13 billion, a particularly risky one, especially if the initial outlay could render any such move as a blind leap of faith. Sony, in a statement to the BBC, expressed their concern, saying “We recognise that China is a promising market. We will continuously study the possibility, but there is no concrete plan at this stage“.
For now, it is much ado about nothing, but there is indeed potential for companies brave enough to take those first steps into a new world, to invest into a market that could make or break them, though until one such company takes that chance, it is highly unlikely that the rest will follow. We certainly find ourselves in interesting times though, and while there may be much at stake, I believe that Microsoft will take the leap, especially with its Xbox One worldwide sales lagging somewhat behind the Playstation 4 (due to being available in far less territories), the allure of monopolising the Chinese market will undoubtedly prove too strong, and eventually both Nintendo and Sony will follow them in – they’d have to. So, as Alexander Graham Bell said, “when one door closes, another door opens”, and whilst a gateway into a lucrative market may be opening up for video game console manufacturers, are we about to witness another slam shut on the already fragile PC gaming industry, only time will tell.
– James Paton @TheBlackPage81
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