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China erases console restrictions, opening huge market to games makers

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

China's longstanding ban on video game consoles has been completely wiped away, reports The Wall Street Journal. The move clears the way for games consoles to be made and sold anywhere in the country.

China last year took steps to relax its proscription on the sale of gaming consoles, which went into effect in 2000, but allowed them for sale only in an 11-mile trade zone surrounding Shanghai. Still, console makers have found the restrictions, which include building local manufacturing facilities, onerous and time-consuming. Those now have been thrown out altogether.

In February, the country asked its local governments for proposals on allowing the sale of consoles. The console ban was enacted by China's cultural ministry, ostensibly to shield its youth from the corrupting influence of games. But in the 15 years since, video gaming has become as much a mainstream leisure pursuit there as in the west, albeit in different forms. Online PC gaming is the nation's largest market, and the China-only launch of Call of Duty Online is Activision's attempt to get a share of an online FPS segment with 100 million players.

The Xbox One launched in China about a year ago. The PlayStation 4 and PS Vita followed in March. Nintendo has expressed an interest in launching consoles in "emerging markets" but hasn't said what its plans are, if any, for China.

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