The Great Console of China

Using RSS feeds is a fantastic way to get news on your favorite websites without having to actually click into the website every time. I’ve been using the RSS feed reading app Flipboard for a few months now, and I’m now also using The Old Reader.

One of the things that have been popping up lately, but not garnering front page news, is the fact that current generation video game consoles are heading over to China.

Consoles banned in China

So far, the two major players in the console war, Microsoft and Sony, have not been able to sell their gaming consoles inside mainland China. The reason, according to Kotaku:

“Consoles have been banned in China since the year 2000,” Lisa Hanson from market researcher Niko Partners tells Kotaku. “The government thought that was the best way to protect Chinese youth from wasting their minds on video games, after a parental outcry.” The following year, online gaming exploded, and the market size hit $100 million. So the ban, Hanson says, “didn’t stop the ‘problem’.”

 

Then, there’s piracy:

Sony did sell their PS2s in mainland China, but as the same Kotaku article reminded us, the pirate tendency that runs rampant in China has rendered the move a disaster.

Sony released the PlayStation 2 in China in January 2004. The launch was a disaster with rampant game piracy and of the hardware itself. While it wasn’t exactly the financial success Sony might have been hoping for, it did build a brand name for the company. Nintendo’s Wii has been copied by a Chinese company and released as the “Vii”, a game system that runs preloaded motion controlled games. Sony’s PS3 has been knocked off as “The Winner”. Pirated versions of console and PC games are prevalent.

 

10 years later…

So 10 years later, I’m reading about the consoles being optioned to sell in China again. First, the XBox One is announced late April, and just today, the PS4 is also announced to be going to the most heavily populated nation.

While on paper, it may seem like a fantastic idea, but considering that the PS2 was one of Sony’s largest console triumph, and it was still pirated to an early grave, what would be in store for the PS4?

Gaming digitally

One thing that has really changed since the disk-based PS2 days, and that is digital gaming. However, stringent DRM on digital game files still won’t guarantee that piracy wouldn’t swallow the profit margin entirely, as the current piracy market has proved that there is always a workabout around digital locks.

Possible preventions

  • Cheaper hardware and software

While this may not be fair to other markets, the fact that other, knockoff products are extremely cheap (under $100 AUD, or even less) mean that to create a competitive product, Sony and Microsoft would have to put onto the shelf an equally cheap product.

  • Exclusive content

This would have to be done concurrently with the previous point, but having exclusive content for the region (the way that Australia and New Zealand gets special ANZ editions) could be enticement to spend some extra money for the official versions. This might not work if piracy gets their hands on it, however.

  • Locking software

The last, and antagonistic suggestion, is to simply ship consoles that lock up if it detects a pirated game being played. This can be maintained through mandatory firmware updates – that is, to not allow the console to function without updating to a new firmware update – so to overcome any hacking that may occur between firmwares. This might be the least pleasant option, because it creates a distrustful atmosphere that places onus on the consumer instead of the publishers to fix a problem.

In any case, it seems that the console war is going to wage on the biggest (and most flooded) market in the world. Whether that would work out, only time would tell.

Alex.

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