The People’s Republic of China has recently granted Sony Computer Entertainment permission to sell the PlayStation 4 game console within the country. This unprecedented move by the Chinese government is a good thing for Sony, but it is not without strings. In the words of one Shanghai Pearl executive, Sony will work with state policies and “introduce quality and healthy video games that will adhere to China’s national conditions as well as the tastes of Chinese gamers.”
At first, this may look like another artery of capitalist ideals sliding into Chinese society, but it simply isn’t. For Sony, a company that has been performing poorly, this is a windfall. It opens up an untapped market without its traditional rivals Nintendo and Microsoft competing for sales. Sony will hold a virtual monopoly within the country for video game consoles, and it will not have to worry about rivals pushing console exclusive games.
The only form of competition that Sony has to worry about is from massively multiplayer online games such as World of Tanks, which are primarily based on computers.
Sony will benefit immensely from profits, as will Chinese gamers if the console manages to catch their eyes. The software that this machine runs will be closely monitored by the Chinese government, to coincide with a policy of “healthy video games.”
This policy and way of approaching foreign media is not without precedent in China, and companies have responded in different ways to this. Filmmakers chose to censor the 2012 remake of Red Dawn by replacing the Chinese flags and symbols within the movie with North Korean symbols for fear of ‘upsetting’ the Chinese market for the film.
The Chinese government has also had a willingness to ban media. The 2003 computer game Command & Conquer: Generals was banned by the government of China for the actions of the Chinese armed forces within the game. The storyline features Chinese soldiers leveling a Hong Kong convention center, liberally using nuclear weapons against terrorists, and even blowing up the Three Gorges Dam to try and win a war on their own soil.
A similar pattern was followed with World of Tanks, a 2009 MMORPG. The owners of the game, Wargaming LLC, do not control anything that happens with the game on Chinese servers. They have outsourced the game to a Chinese company and receive royalties. The Chinese company has replaced flags of real nations within the game with fictional ones, and sells “premium” tanks (tanks bought with real money) at marked up prices. One of these sells for approximately 500 dollars.
The same sorts of actions we see with Red Dawn, Generals, and World of Tanks will likely occur with the Playstation 4 console. China is very concerned with maintaining an image for the people on all fronts. Requiring games that are “healthy” for citizens is of no issue to the Chinese government. China censors as it sees fit, and outside companies adhere to the nation’s policies, or risk access to this potent market.
Photo Credit: Neon Tommy via Flickr