China Temporarily Lifts Ban on Video Games

Meanwhile Valve showcases Steam Machines at CES.

Visitors play a car racing game at the 2006 Xian International Auto Expo on Sept. 28, 2006 in Xian of Shaanxi Province, China.
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Citizens of China are free to buy a PlayStation or an Xbox for the first time since 2000 now that China's State Council temporarily lifted its ban on video games, but it is unclear how long that suspension will last, or whether average Chinese citizen could afford a console.

China's Ministry of Culture banned foreign-built video game consoles 14 years ago, claiming they could damage the mental health of Chinese youth. China's Internet is still strictly regulated to filter content and keywords that China's Communist Party dislikes. China's State Council said on Monday it would allow foreign companies to build consoles in Shanghai's free trade zone and sell them in the People's Republic after the cultural ministry inspects the devices, without giving any sign of how long the ban would be suspended, according to a government statement cited by the BBC.

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China's gaming industry is worth approximately $13 billion, but two-thirds of it is dominated by PC gaming because of the ban, offering a huge opportunity for companies including Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft to expand into new markets, the BBC reported. Gaming consoles are manufactured in China via contracts for export to foreign businesses.

The low wages in China can make it difficult to sell electronics in that country. The average Chinese citizen made approximately $6,091 in 2012, according to the World Bank. The latest generation of consoles are priced at approximately $500 for Microsoft's XBoxOne, $400 for Sony's PlayStation 4, and $300 for Nintendo's Wii U.

These prices are affordable compared with the new Steam Machine PC-gaming console, announced by gaming company Valve on Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with prices ranging from $500 to $6,000 for different versions of the device. Valve has been planning a series of products which would make its Steam downloading platform independent of Microsoft Windows or Apple iOS, including a console dubbed the Steam Machine that would play PC games on a TV set.

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Fourteen companies plan to partner with Valve on their own versions of the Steam Machine, innovating from a beta testing console provided by the gaming company. Every Steam Machine includes a Steam Controller designed for use with many different game genres, and uses the SteamOS to access Valve's online game platform, said a release from Valve CEO Gabe Newell.

"The first generation Steam Machines offers something for every gamer, which is a critical part of extending Steam into the living room," Newell said. "With over 3,000 games and more than 65 million gamers on Steam, it's important to offer gamers a variety of Steam Machines that allow them to select what makes the most sense for them."

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