Microsoft recently announced that the Xbox One would see an official release in China this fall. American McGee, a game designer who lives in Shanghai, has shared some insight as to why this is a move that will cost Microsoft quite a bit of money.
First, he brings up the myth that PlayStation and Xbox are banned in China; McGee points out that such a ban isn’t really enforced. Plenty of consumers already order black market consoles from Taobao — including PS4 and Xbox One, so the “release” doesn’t really bring customers anything they can’t already get. They’re more likely to order from this and similar websites because those consoles will have key restrictions unlocked, meaning they’re free of the censorship that the official versions will undoubtedly have.
Even then, he says, that the audience isn’t as big as China’s billion-plus population would suggest:
Cultural/audience disconnect. The target market of kids/young-adults from middle-class/wealthy families don’t have free time to spend on console games (or TV/movies). Between the ages of 3~22 years of age they are heads-down with study, school, and extra-curricular activities that will increase their chances of competing successfully against others in the super-hot Chinese job market. Those that aren’t studying don’t have money to spend on a console.
He shared a quick thought I had as well, about Chinese gamers being too addicted to mobile phones; there’s just not room for more systems. I know that’s becoming a problem for TV consoles here in Japan, but wasn’t sure if that’s also an issue in China. (Heck, I was even half-suspecting Microsoft to pull out of Japan entirely.)
McGee’s breakdown is on his Facebook page.
What do you think? Can Microsoft manage to overpower the massive piracy and console indifference that surrounds the Chinese market? Does Xbox One have a chance? Do you agree with American McGee when he says that Sony should not “follow Microsoft into this punji pit?”