China officially lifts ban on video game consoles after 15 years

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

For the past 15 years, owning an Xbox in China was illegal. Until now. The Chinese Ministry of Culture announced this week that it was removing its ban on the manufacture and sale of video games within the country. The ban was first instituted in 2000 out of fear that these devices would have negative effects on Chinese youth, and it came at a time when consoles were venturing into 3D graphics.

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The lifting of the ban wasn't entirely a surprise. In 2014 China introduced a pilot program where manufacturers could make and sell their products within an 11-square mile "free trade zone" in Shanghai.

The absence of video game consoles didn't prevent China from developing a solid gaming culture. Arcades are very popular in China, and computer games like Counter-Strike filled the void for years. In fact, the widespread presence of PC games is likely the reason why China has always been very competitive in the world of e-sports. As it stands, there's at least 11 active Chinese teams professionally competing in Dota 2.

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This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Mobile games would also come to feed the need in the last five years, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones. Companies like Nintendo also didn't abandon their Chinese operations entirely. In 2003, Nintendo released the iQue Player as part of a joint-venture. The iQue player was a "plug and play," a device where the video games are found inside the controller, and all you have to do is hook it up to your TV.

It won't be easy for console makers to come back from the 15-year hiatus but that doesn't mean they're not excited about the prospect of making tons of money from the Chinese video game market.

"We welcome the move. We remain committed to deliver fun and exciting console gaming experiences to as many Chinese users as possible," Sony spokesman Sousuke Kamei said in a statement.

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Given that the Chinese gaming market is worth $22.2 billion (according to the Wall Street Journal), an increase of nearly 25 percent from 2014's figure, we too would be very welcoming of the move.

Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.

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