Back in January, China ended a 14-year ban on foreign companies selling video game consoles in the country. That was good news for Sony (NYSE:SNE), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Nintendo (NTDOY.PK), as China is a huge potential market, with nearly half a billion gamers and revenues of almost $14 billion. So far, Microsoft and Nintendo have announced plans to sell consoles in China, but Sony had been silent on the issue — until today. Sony has just revealed that it will set up two joint ventures with Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group to sell PlayStation hardware and software.
Although the Chinese government has loosened the rules to allow foreign game makers to sell their wares in the populous country, they’re not making it easy. Each company wishing to do so has to partner with a Chinese company and operate out of the Shanghai free trade zone. Microsoft is working with BesTV New Media and plans to release the Xbox One in China this September. Nintendo hasn’t detailed its plans, but says it will make new hardware to sell in China.
Sony will partner with Shanghai Oriental Pearl Culture Development Ltd., but has yet to reveal when its products will hit the shelves in China. In fact, Sony hasn’t even announced which hardware it will release in China, although it will likely include the PlayStation 4 to compete against Microsoft’s Xbox One.
Despite the country’s sizable gaming market, the New York Times says that selling consoles in China could prove more challenging than in the other game markets of the world, like Japan, the United States, and Europe. In part that’s because Chinese gamers have spent the past 14 years playing games on PCs and mobile devices, so there’s no “console culture” like there is elsewhere in the world.