Microsoft announced Wednesday that it will begin selling the Xbox One gaming console in China on September 23. This will mark the first time a foreign gaming console will be sold in China in more than a decade since the country lifted a ban from 2000 on foreign gaming consoles.
"We’re honored that Xbox One is the first console approved for sale in China through the Shanghai Free Trade Zone," says Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice-president for marketing, devices and studios at Microsoft. "We’re dedicated to earning millions of fans in China by working with BesTV to deliver an all in one games and entertainment experience starting September 23."
The console will sell for 3,699 yuan ($600). An Xbox One with the Microsoft Kinect motion detection system will sell for a steeper 4,299 yuan ($700). This is more expensive than the console's price in the US, where it retails for $399 and $499 with Kinect added in. It is being distributed in China by the Chinese Internet company Tencent Holdings and the Chinese electronics company JD.com.
In China, the world's third-biggest gaming market, revenues increased by more than a third from 2012, reaching close to $14 billion in 2013, according to Reuters. But piracy and the prevalence of PC and mobile gaming could make it difficult for a new gaming console to find a ledge in the Chinese gaming market, Reuters notes.
Microsoft is working with Chinese Internet TV set-top box maker BesTV to manufacture the gaming consoles in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. September 23, the date the devices start shipping, will mark the Shanghai Free Trade Zone one-year anniversary.
"We’ve been working together with Microsoft for more than a year to prepare for the launch of Xbox One and our organizations share a vision for bringing entertainment and gaming innovation to our consumers," says Zhang Dazhong, senior vice president of Shanghai Media Group and chairman of the board for E-Home Entertainment. "We are excited to start delivering on that promise and are committed to fostering China’s original game development."
In addition to gaming content, Xbox One owners will receive access to high-definition TV and movie content, premium sports games provided by BesTV, Xbox Live multiplayer gaming capability, the Xbox Fitness Library that features a new Tai Chi fitness feature, and exclusive apps locally-developed in China, according to an official release.
This announcement comes on the heels of a Chinese investigation into Microsoft for possible violation of Chinese antimonopoly laws. Chinese officials from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce visited four Microsoft offices earlier this week in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu. These visits were the latest example of an increasingly tense environment for US technology companies operating in China in due to revelations made last year by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden as well as a desire on China's part to promote local technologies in the international arena, such as Chinese Internet services.