Why Are Consoles Banned In China?

by Andrew Scott

I really don’t know why I didn’t know this – and I don’t mean the answer, I mean the question. I had absolutely no idea consoles were banned in China. Did you?

It’s ironic that young people in Chinese factories are churning out millions of Wiis, PS3s and Xboxes for their western counterparts, yet the young Chinese themselves are not allowed to buy one – legally at least, but more on that later.

Consoles have been banned in China since the year 2000. The government compelled by a parental outcry brought about the ban in an attempt to protect Chinese youth from wasting their minds away. Shortly after the ban came into effect online gaming exploded and soon had a market share of $100 million. Another fine example of how bans rarely solve a problem.

Folk often say where there’s a will there’s a way – and there is obviously a will pushing from both sides to get consoles into the Chinese market.

Video games have magnetic attraction to kids and young adults everywhere, China included, and the massive number of people that fit into the game console demographic is of big interest to the big console manufactures, but there is more than legislation that stands in the way of Nintendo, Sony et al.

Piracy, that ever present menace to free market capitalism is rife in China. The legislative console ban does exist on paper, but it is hardly enforced strictly. It is piracy that keeps game consoles out of China.

In 2004 Sony released the PlayStation 2 in China. The launch was an experiment, which turned into a farce, which turned into a disaster… as far as Sony was concerned. Rampant game piracy and piracy of the hardware itself slashed profits immeasurably.

Nintendo do operate in China under the brand name “iQue” and they leagally released the DS in Chinese stores back in 2009. Nintendo is yet to release the Wii in mainland China, but there may be little point.

A Chinese company have been producing a Wii knock off cheekily called the “Vii” for some time now; while Sony’s PS3 has been ripped off to create a clone called “Winner”.

There is a grey market in china, where real western game consoles are bought and sold illegally. Most of these will be modded so they can play pirated games that can be gotten free, or damn nearly free.

In my opinion there maybe something bigger going on.

By not letting foreign companies enter the Chinese market with already well-established products and brands, coupled with complete disregard for patent or copyright, the Chinese government is perhaps trying to give domestic Chinese companies a fighting chance of fulfilling the demand for gaming consoles.

Anyway, before I get too political I’m of to play a little bit of Stario Bros on my Bintendo Vii.

Check out this video for some pics of fake consoles and some other funny brand knock-offs from China:

Give us your thoughts on all this. Why are consoles banned in China? Is it just the rule of Chinese authoritarianism? Crazy piracy? Or is it a strategic economic policy? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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