It has been a 14-year wait for Chinese gamers, and Xbox is the first one to the punch.
The Xbox One became on Monday the first video game console to go on sale in China since game systems were banned there 14 years ago. It’s a major coup for Xbox, which beat Sony and Nintendo into the huge Chinese market.
“This milestone is significant for both our partnership with China and our global expansion plan,” Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, said in a company blog post. “Every new market launch is unique and we’re grateful to our fans for their patience and enthusiasm.”
Long lines were reported outside many of the 4,000 Chinese stores now selling Xbox Ones, but consumers might be a bit disappointed with the offerings. They will have to fork out 3,699 yuan, or $600, for an Xbox without Kinect. The console retails for $400 in the U.S. Furthermore, the Chinese game roster is limited. The government must still approve content, and only 10 titles have received the green light. Notable absentees include the Halo and Call of Duty series.
Nevertheless, Xbox’s plunge into a market the size of China is a significant one. Microsoft says there are 500 million gamers in the nation, a potential customer base larger than the entire U.S. and one that, until now, had no dedicated gaming console. A Chinese toehold would be a boon for the Xbox One, which has been outsold by Sony’s PlayStation 4 in the U.S. for eight consecutive months.
Video game consoles were banned in China in 2000 to protect children from what officials viewed as malicious content. An expansion of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone relaxed those rules, and console sales became legal in January.