【英语中国】中国“暂时”解除游戏机禁令 China ends ban on foreign game consoles

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所属分类:双语中国

2014-1-10 00:58

小艾摘要: China’s State Council has formally lifted a 14-year ban on foreign-made game consoles, unlocking a potentially huge profit pool that has so far eluded the likes of Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.The re ...
China ends ban on foreign game consoles
China’s State Council has formally lifted a 14-year ban on foreign-made game consoles, unlocking a potentially huge profit pool that has so far eluded the likes of Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

The relaxation, originally announced last year, will allow foreign-invested enterprises to sell their products into the country from factories established in Shanghai’s new free trade zone.

The liberalisation could open a market closed since 2000 to companies including Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony.

When it implemented the ban, the Chinese government cited concerns about harmful effects that violent video games might have on the country’s youth.

In spite of the restrictions, Microsoft’s Xbox, Nintendo’s Wii, Sony’s PlayStation and other consoles are readily available in China, having been smuggled into the country.

The ban also failed to dent the rapid rise of PC, internet and mobile gaming in China, all of which feed a market estimated to be worth $14bn annually.

Tencent, China’s most valuable internet company, makes more than half of its revenues from gaming. In 2012, Lenovo unveiled a home entertainment console that it marketed as a family exercise device or “sports machine” to circumvent the gaming equipment ban. The device was initially priced at more than $600 – twice the cost of a comparable Xbox.

Video games traditionally were an important draw for the country’s once ubiquitous communal internet cafés, which have steadily lost customers as tablets and smartphones become more affordable.

Neither Nintendo nor Sony has announced plans to establish operations in the Shanghai trade zone but in September, Microsoft said it would establish a $240m joint venture with BesTV, an arm of the state-owned Shanghai Media Group. The two companies intend to produce “family games and related services”. BesTV’s Shanghai-traded shares rose more than 8 per cent on Tuesday.

Most of the world’s most popular consoles are already made in China by contract manufacturers for export. Such operations offer another potential source of leakage into the market.

The requirement that factories must be based in the Shanghai free-trade zone means existing game console makers cannot simply redirect their current output on to China’s domestic market and take advantage of existing economies of scale.

The State Council also said the ban’s suspension was “temporary” and noted that consoles manufactured in the zone would be subject to “content examinations by cultural departments” – both factors that could dissuade foreign investors from risking their capital there.

“China’s game console market is virgin territory,” said Zhang Yi, head of iiMedia research. “But lifting the ban is like ice melting - it won’t happen overnight. There are still many obstacles. The most important one is approval from cultural departments.”

The liberalisation also highlighted the piecemeal impact of Shanghai’s new trade zone, the establishment of which was originally likened by its proponents to the rise of special economic zones in the early 1980s under Deng Xiaoping to kick-start China’s reform and opening programme.

Some of the zone’s backers had held out hopes it would bring big-bang reforms ranging from an opening of the country’s closed capital account to relaxation of strict internet censorship.

Additional reporting by Wan Li

中国国务院正式解除了针对外国游戏机的已实行14年的禁令,为微软(Microsoft)、索尼(Sony)和任天堂(Nintendo)等厂家打开了它们迄今难以企及的潜在巨大利润池。

解除禁令的决定最初是在去年宣布的,新政策将允许外商投资企业将其在上海自贸区工厂生产的产品在中国销售。

这一解禁之举有望向微软、任天堂和索尼等企业打开一个从2000年封闭至今的市场。

当年颁布游戏机销售禁令时,中国政府列举的理由包括,担忧暴力内容的视频游戏对中国青少年产生有害影响。

尽管受到限制,但微软的Xbox、任天堂的Wii,以及索尼的PlayStation等游戏机在中国相当容易买到,这些游戏机都是被走私到中国的。

禁令也未能阻止个人电脑、互联网和手机游戏在中国快速崛起,这一切催生了一个估计每年价值140亿美元的市场。

中国最具价值的互联网公司腾讯(Tencent)一半以上的营收来自游戏业务。2012年,联想(Lenovo)推出一款家庭娱乐机,它被当作一种家庭锻炼器材或“运动机”行销市场,以规避针对游戏设备的禁令。该装置最初售价超过600美元,两倍于一台可比的Xbox。

在以前,视频游戏一向是中国曾经随处可见的公共网吧的重要吸引力之一,但随着平板电脑和智能手机的价位降至更可承受的水平,网吧顾客逐渐减少。

任天堂和索尼均未宣布在上海自贸区设厂的计划,但微软在去年9月表示,计划与百视通(BesTV)共同投资2.4亿美元成立合资企业,后者是中国国有的上海文广新闻传媒集团(SMG)旗下的新媒体公司。两家公司有意合作打造“家庭游戏娱乐产品”以及相关服务。百视通在上海上市的股票周二上涨逾8%。

世界上最流行的游戏机大多已经由代工制造商在中国制造,用于出口。此类业务提供了另一个渗透入中国市场的潜在来源。

有关生产厂必须设在上海自贸区的要求意味着,现有的游戏机厂商不能简单地将目前的产品推向中国国内市场,利用现成的规模效益优势。

国务院还表示,禁令的停止实施是“暂时”的,并指出,在上海自贸区生产的游戏机将受到“文化主管部门内容审查”。这两个因素都可能阻止外国投资者冒险投资。

“中国的游戏机市场是处女地,”艾媒咨询(iiMedia Research)负责人张毅表示。“但解禁就像冰块融化,它不会在一夜间发生。仍有许多障碍,其中最重要的是文化主管部门的审批。”

游戏机解禁之举还突显了上海自贸区小打小闹式的影响,该自贸区最初曾被支持者拿来与上世纪80年代初的经济特区相提并论。当年由邓小平拍板建立的经济特区开启了中国的改革开放之路。

上海自贸区的一些支持者曾希望,它将带来一揽子重大改革,从开放中国封闭的资本账户,到放松中国严厉的互联网审查。

Wan Li补充报道

译者/何黎

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