Like the Xbox One months before it, Sony's PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita have been delayed in China until further notice. The reasoning behind the delay? Sony needs to resubmit its business plans to the Chinese government.
Sony announced last week that the PS4 and PS Vita would not make its scheduled Chinese launch date of January 11. In their statement to the public, the company was vague, stating that the consoles had been delayed for various reasons — but in China, the buzz is that Sony's decision to keep the PS4 region unlocked had irked the wrong people.
After Sony's December Shanghai announcement of the PS4, Sony told members of the press, Kotaku included, that the Chinese PS4 was a "global product built for a global audience", and that it will "work within the regulations of the Chinese government while still being a global product." The prevailing thought was the the PS4 was going to be region unlocked.
Two weeks later, Sony shipped out review units to members of the press. Chinese gaming forum A9VG was among the first to confirm that the Chinese PS4 was region unlocked, able to play game discs from Hong Kong and log into foreign PlayStation Network accounts.
Fast forward to January 6, a series of posts on various Chinese net forums such as Baidu Tieba appeared, condemning the PS4 in China, in particularly the region free capabilities. This image of a government report form, reposted by Chinese gaming site 17173 (the operator of 2P.com) is the most common one.
Complaint against Sony China's video game console, because it can play games that have been banned. The PS4 console is planned to launch in January 2015 in China, and it has been revealed by the press that the console can operate content that has not been approved by the Ministry of Culture, content that may bring harm to our nation. These games include Grand Theft Auto V, a game that involves the use of drugs, violence, crime and murder. These products greatly damage China's cultural health. I strongly request that Sony China be punished for these anti-China actions.
According to Chinese media, one of the netizens that reported on Sony has been "human flesh searched" after publically announcing his involvement — likely by people connecting all this to the console delay.
On January 8, two days after the online reports surfaced, Sony announced that they were holding back the launch of the PS4 in China. Customers who pre-ordered the console were able to receive refunds if they wanted. Sony president and Group CEO Andrew House told the Wall Street Journal (via Sina) that the consoles were delayed because the government requested a re-evaluation of Sony's business plans. House also stated that the delay had nothing to do with the Interview, the Sony pictures hack, or Sino-Japan issues.
According to China's own regulations for video game consoles, region locking was never brought up. For all we know, Sony's troubles with the PS4 could be its business plan. Online in China, media commentators say that the dream of an unlocked console is dead.
China opened up its video game console market in late 2013 by setting up the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. After 14 years of being barred from the market, Microsoft released the Xbox One in November.
The delay of the PS4 in China has led to a steady drop in Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group's stock prices.
Sony China has declined further comment on the delay of the PlayStation in China.