Microsoft finally got its Xbox One officially for sale in China this past fall, and Sony has now broken through with a deal to sell the Playstation 4 starting in January. But some say their prospects are still dim.
The problem is both Sony and Microsoft will have their consoles distributed by the same company, which is putting a priority on selling local consoles.
BesTV, which represents the Xbox One, and Oriental Pearl, which represents the PS4, are two subsidiaries of the same state-owned company that merged two weeks ago into a single company: Shanghai Media Group. Therefore the single entity will now sell the world’s two top gaming consoles in China, but neither will be a priority.
Li Ruigang, chairman of the Shanghai Media Group, says he wants to advance domestic interests rather than focus on foreign games:
Bringing foreign games into the country doesn’t make BesTV money, doing development and operating the sales platforms ourselves provides the biggest profits. The people who make money selling game discs are companies like Sony and Microsoft, so relying on selling discs is definitely not what we want.
Charlie Custer of Games in Asia doesn’t hold high hopes for the PS4 in China, either:
To begin with, the merger likely means that the PS4 will share all of the same restrictions, including the intense region locking and the ban on used games, that the Xbox One has. None of that is good for Chinese consumers – they’re getting a console with less functionality at a higher price point than their friends overseas.
It also means that the PS4 will be operated in China with the same mentality we’ve seen with the Xbox One, which means a focus on domestic games and services. The PS4 launch lineup is likely to be just as limited and unimpressive and the Xbox One’s was.
Some analysts remain optimistic despite the Xbox One’s current slump in the Chinese market. Cai Ling, a culture industry research consultant, notes that although both companies are fierce rivals competing for the same target audience, there is a lot of potential in the Chinese market that can offer a winning combination for both companies.
The Xbox One was launched in China amid delays with an inflated price, a truncated line-up of games that appears to restrict violent and adult content, and online services that are still not operational.