Nintendo iQue.jpg

In 2013 it was announced that China would, very slowly, lift its ban on video game consoles. Implemented in early 2014, the process was exceptionally stringent, limiting manufacturing and distribution to the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone.

Though stock prices of major game companies had a bump when the ban 'ended', the tough and highly limiting conditions have meant few fireworks following the release of the PS4 and Xbox One. Beyond the logistical challenges of manufacturing and distributing within a small zone, China's tough censorship laws also make a lot of mature-rated retail releases unsuitable for approval. Nintendo stated that rather than simply release Wii U it would look into different hardware for emerging markets, but a long period of silence was followed by reports that the big N had dropped the idea for the time being.

Now, however, it's emerged (via Wall Street Journal) that China is to lift the limitations on manufacturing and selling home consoles in the country. Though censorship will still be an issue with content, actually producing and distributing systems in the economic powerhouse should now be far easier.

It's worth acknowledging that it won't be easy for console manufacturers to break into the Chinese market with success. Censorship issues aside, gaming in the country is predominantly on PC, smart devices and on cloned systems, so persuading gamers to switch over will take time; as mentioned above, there's been limited fanfare for PS4 and Xbox One in China.

Will these rule changes prompt Nintendo to reconsider releasing hardware in the country? Possibly, as it should certainly be logistically simpler to produce a product and sell it with the restrictions lifted, while plenty of Nintendo games are unlikely to fall foul of the Chinese authorities. Of course, it's still not a simple process, and Nintendo will no doubt need to assess its priorities and all of the pros and cons of moving into that market. The big N does have some experience of releasing products in China, it's worth noting, as it collaborated on the iQue Player in 2003, which was a TV plug-and-play Nintendo 64-based system.

We can expect more talk of the money to be made from going big in the Chinese gaming market. Whether Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft can succeed is certainly up for debate.

[via wsj.com, gamespot.com]