Chinese Government Considering Lifting Decade-Plus Games Console Ban, Says Report

China is considering lifting a 12-year-plus long ban on games consoles, according to a report in the China Daily newspaper (via Reuters). The speculation sent shares of Nintendo and PlayStation-maker Sony surging, with Nintendo gaining more than 3.5 per cent on the Nikkei index and Sony shares trading 8 per cent higher, according to Reuters.

The China Daily quoted an unnamed source from the Ministry of Culture saying the console ban was under review. “We are reviewing the policy and have conducted some surveys and held discussions with other ministries on the possibility of opening up the game console market. However, since the ban was issued by seven ministries more than a decade ago, we will need approval from all parties to lift it,” the unnamed source is quoted as saying.

But when contacted by Reuters a ministry official denied the report, saying: “The ministry is not considering lifting the ban.”

The Chinese government imposed the games console ban in 2000 — saying it wanted to safeguard children’s mental and physical well being. Despite the ban on dedicated games consoles, mobile and online games are very popular in China but games makers have to ensure games comply with stringent government requirements or risk their game being banned. Games are typically required to include anti-addiction features which monitor how long a gamer has been playing and warns them to take breaks for health reasons. Gamers are also required to verify their identity and age by using their real name and an ID number that is checked against a government database.

Reuters notes that in November, Sony’s PlayStation 3 received a quality certification from a Chinese safety standards body — which prompted speculation that the government was planning to lift the ban. Another sign of a possible policy shift: Chinese electronics maker Lenovo was able to launch a motion-sensing device similar in concept to Microsoft’s Kinect Xbox gaming peripheral last year. The Eedoo CT510 was marketed as an “exercise and entertainment machine”.

In February 2011, a Chinese man was reported to have died after spending three days playing an online game at an Internet cafe in Beijing.