Why Are Consoles Banned In China?

Why Are Consoles Banned In China?

Video game consoles are illegal in China. Ironically, the Wii, the PS3 and the Xbox 360 are Chinese-made. And there is a flourishing PC gaming culture. There has to be a reason for this ban. Turns out, there is.

“Consoles have been banned in China since the year 2000,” Lisa Hanson from market researcher Niko Partners tells Kotaku. “The government thought that was the best way to protect Chinese youth from wasting their minds on video games, after a parental outcry.” The following year, online gaming exploded, and the market size hit $US100 million. So the ban, Hanson says, “didn’t stop the ‘problem’.”

A recent article on Chinese news site Sina.com points out, “In June 2000, the Ministry of Culture issued a notice, forbidding any company or individual to produce and sell electronic game equipment and accessories to China.”

Plug ‘n’ play consoles became a legal alternative to the banned home consoles. Nintendo released the iQue Player, a console it developed with software developer Wei Yen, whose California-based company AiLive co-created the Wii MotionPlus. The iQue Player was priced at US$60, and it is not a pure plug ‘n’ play per se. Players can play Nintendo 64 games like Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Super Smash Bros. that were specifically ported to the system. To get new games, players go to their local game retailer, where they can download more games onto a 64MB flash memory card. The cartridge is slotted directly into the controller, which houses the console.

“We have targeted people in developed countries such as Japan, the US and Europe with sophisticated machines,” Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said back in 2003. “To reach a wide range of people in China, especially those inland who are not as rich as those in coastal areas, we thought we needed to deliver a cheaper console.” And to legally sell a video game console in Japan, it had to sell something that not only didn’t quite look like a video game console and couldn’t be pirated to Timbuktu and back. (That’s not to say the iQue Player is piracy free!)

Software piracy is a huge problem in China, and that might be why game company are hesitant to enter the Chinese market, but it’s not why video game have been outlawed. Nintendo legally released its portable Nintendo DSi in Chinese stores in December 2009. Nintendo has yet to release its Nintendo Wii in mainland China.

Likewise, neither Sony nor Microsoft have released their consoles in the mainland. Sony and Microsoft, however, do have a Hong Kong branches and have released their home consoles in that territory. Heck, there are even PS3 demo units at the Hong Kong airport. Sony might still be smarting to what happened to the PS2.

The console ban does exist on paper, but it is not strictly enforced. Piracy, on the other hand, is doing more to keep game consoles out of China than any government edict ever could. Sony released the PlayStation 2 in China in January 2004. The launch was a disaster with rampant game piracy and of the hardware itself. While it wasn’t exactly the financial success Sony might have been hoping for, it did built a brand name for the company. Nintendo’s Wii has been copied by a Chinese company and released as the “Vii”, a game system that runs preloaded motion controlled games. Sony’s PS3 has been knocked off as “The Winner”. Pirated versions of console and PC games are prevalent. There are also cafes that offer players the chance to play video game consoles.

Game consoles do make their way into China through the grey market, where they are bought and sold illegally. Hanson at Niko Partners points out that gamers get their grey market consoles modded so they can play pirated games for either free or on the cheap. “The PS3 is hard to play pirated games on,” says Hanson, “so it has the lowest share of the three brands.”

There is no regulatory body to oversee video game consoles, creating a bureaucratic quagmire for the ban. Hanson, however, speculates that the Ministry of Culture might eventually get that role. Since there is no body to monitor the game consoles, there is no governmental body to determine whether or not to overturn the ban on consoles, creating a Catch-22. Until then, expect grey market sales will continue to dominate, if anything out of necessity.



  • don’t let the Australian government know there already going to the extreme with the net filter don’t give them any ideas

  • Yet gaming companies still have their consoles made in China, making it incredibly easy for the Chinese to pirate their products.

  • This is a misleading article, China bans the sale of the console from its parent company. Therefore it is perfectly leagal if the parent company gives a liscence to another to sell in its place hence the purpose for iQue (rebranding of Nintendo).

    South Korea has had a similar law back in the days of the Sega Genesis, being branded as the Samsung Genesis.

  • “The PS3 is hard to play pirated games on,” says Hanson, “so it has the lowest share of the three brands.”

    Hard=impossible. This statement applies for the rest of the world as well.

    • remember when they said it was impossible for 360?
      that didn’t end up happening so there could be someone out there with a ps3 capable of pirated games, but your not exactly going to clap and cheer about it cause you’ll get in trouble

  • When I was in China, there were entire BUILDINGS dedicated to gaming. Both consoles and PC, with almost every store selling both real and pirated versions of the same software and having pristine and modded versions of consoles. The grey market for gaming is monstrously large in mainland China.

    • Does anyone know how to setup Playstation 3 innole connection with Netgear?I have a computer running and laptop running with Netgear Modem.Laptop is working with wireless. I’ve tried everything my innole connection on my PS3 keeps screwing up. The PS3 is working the wireless connection. If anyone could help me configure and make it stop disconnecting, that will be awesome. Thanks

  • Well I don’t know where the OP of this article gets his or her information from but I can tell you as someone who lives in North China that it is completely incorrect…

    There are gaming stores everywhere in the city I live, which is Tianjin and just East of Beijing. They sell DS, DSi, PSP2000, PSP3000, Wii, XBOX360 and PS3’s. They are legitimate ones not fakes and the only thing that is sold fake are the millions of pirated games alongside them.

    Consoles are most certainly NOT banned in China in fact China, being the 2nd largest economy in the world and soon to be the largest, accounts for more video game console and handheld sales than everywhere. The reason for PS3 and XBOX’s lower sales are quite simple, they are harder to keep hacked when compared to the flexibility of the Wii and handhelds and handheld gaming is much more popular with the Chinese anyway simply on a culture and lifestyle basis,. Students here as they progress through school often spend up until 8 or 9pm in class and have a mountain of homework most of the time, therefore handheld gaming is quick and easy to pick up and put down when they have the time to do so as opposed to a console. That is why consoles are not as popular here in China, not that they have been banned.

    The government is much more bothered about the effects of political discussion and information available on the internet which is why they have such a focus on censorship in the way of the green dam, or “Great Firewall Of China” as it is more commonly known.

    Believe be, hi tech gadgets are in abundance here in China. Most Cybermarts which include about 4 or 5 floors of tech are selling every single possible piece of computer hardware you can think of from motherboards to CPU’s and graphic cards as well as shop after shop of pirated DVD’s and games. The Chinese can get more than their recommended fix of wasted time gaming by purchasing such tech in the form an uber PC and spend their days playing MMO’s and whatever other titles take their fancy, banning consoles would be like plugging one hole in a failing dam which had many. A complete and utter waste of their time.

    It makes me laugh the sheer amount of completely inaccurate information that ends up on foreign websites and newspapers about China it really does. Until you actually come and try living here for some time you are just not qualified to comment on what is and is not the situation here. My God I forget I am living in a communist state most of the time because China is quite simply so ahead and tech savvy in most of the aspects of their lives.

  • :O ive been in china for 2 years and i never even know consoles were illegal because ALL my friends have PS3s 360s etc there are loads of places in Beijing that sell games (original ones) i bought my PS Vita there since December 2011

  • …I am a Chinese, I do have a ps3, xbox360 and psv….btw, the console you’ve showed I’ve never seen before. As u know, there’r 1.3 billion people in China, and half of them are poor, they cannot afford the consoles such as PS3, XBOX. So, some companies manufacture fake console s in order to satisfy the lower end of the market…. The consoles are absolutely legal in China, the point is that SONY do not wanna sell PS3 in chinese market, because chinese hacker can crack it quickly, and then copy it and produce fake one….

  • I remeber buying UMDs for my PSP in china from the shopping centers just 5 years ago… Video game consoles can be found in most electronic or gaming stores everywhere the Ban is NOT ENFORCED at all its just in name only

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