CHINA - The 14-year ban on game consoles in China ended on Monday with the launch of Microsoft Corp's Xbox One, which was also the first anniversary of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone.
Approval for the production and sales of game consoles has been one of the high-profile developments in the zone.
Zhang Dazhong, chairman of E-Home Entertainment Development Co Ltd - a joint venture between BesTV New Media Co Ltd and Microsoft in the FTZ - said the introduction of game consoles to the Chinese market is "the best gift" to mark the FTZ's first birthday.
Although the launch of the Xbox One in China was delayed for a week, Microsoft said the move is "just the beginning" of its marketing plan in China.
However, only 10 games are being provided for the console at this time, and video services are excluded.
Xie Enwei, general manager of Microsoft's greater China region, said that more games will be provided within a few weeks or months. E-Home is developing some 70 games for the Chinese users.
Chinese players are excited about the coming of the console.
Yu Hanfeng, 23, a self-employed worker in Shanghai, said he is saving money to buy an Xbox One. As a big fan of games originating in the United States, he finds the Xbox to be the ideal choice. In addition, Yu said the Kinect sensor provides a better experience.
"But the console has some shortcomings. Its image quality is not very good. Besides, the Xbox lacks the games that are suitable for family members. But still, I can't miss it."
Microsoft's largest competitor in the game consoles industry, Japan's Sony Corp, extended its congratulations via the official Sina Weibo account of PlayStation on Monday morning.
Calling it a memorable day, Sony wished "Chinese players a good experience and prosperity in the Chinese game consoles market". However, it did not announce when it will release its PlayStation consoles.
Sony set up two joint ventures in the FTZ in May for the production and sales of its best-selling PlayStation consoles.
According to market research consultancy Newzoo BV, income from console games accounts for 43 per cent of the total $70.4 billion income of the global gaming industry. China's contribution, however, was zero before the ban was lifted.
"The most important thing in the Chinese market is how to make the games and consoles less expensive but available to a larger group of users ... The lifting of the ban will give incentives to more independent game developers whose products are maturing in China," said Shirley Lin, vice-president of the mobile marketing company YeahMobi, which is a subsidiary of the United States based-NDP Media Corp.
The console is priced at 3,699 yuan (S$766.21) without the Kinect motion detection system and at 4,299 yuan with it.
Consumers can buy the console at more than 4,000 retail outlets in 37 cities in China. Xbox One is also available from online retailers such as JD.com Inc, Gome Electrical Appliance Holding Ltd and Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd at the same prices as at brick-and-mortar stores.
Lan Ye, chief marketing officer of JD, said it is very excited to be one of the first retailers to deliver Xbox Ones to Chinese consumers. "We have high expectations for the Chinese gaming and entertainment market," he said.