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China announces the end of a 13-year ban on video game consoles

Companies will have to set up operations in the Shanghai free market zone to sell in the Chinese mainland

After a 13-year ban China has approved the sale of video game consoles in the country, opening up a potentially huge market for Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft.

The decision has been approved by both Premier Li Keqiang and the State Council with a caveat that companies selling consoles must set up a center of Chinese operations in the Shanghai free trade zone.

The decision is part of a larger policy blueprint for the area which will see economic and government restrictions loosened to encourage foreign business and investment.

Sources who reviewed the relevant documents told the South China Morning Post that the consoles will still need approval from the Ministry of Culture “because the government wants to make sure the content of your games is not too violent or politically sensitive for young people.”

China first enacted the ban on video game consoles in 2000 with authorities expressing worry that the “mental health” of young Chinese would be adversely affected. Despite this there is a thriving black market in the country alongside many other restricted consumer goods.

This is perhaps due in no small part to the fact that consoles created by the ‘Big Three’ – Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft - are all manufactured on the Chinese mainland.

Although consoles have been banned for many years, Chinese citizens have also gotten a taste for gaming through the mobile devices and home-grown gaming studios. In 2012 video game revenue in the country rose 35.1 per cent year on year to reach an estimated £5.7 billion (RMB 60.28 billion) in 2012.