The announcement, which according to the Wall Street Journal was handed out by China’s State Council, means that it could soon be open season for Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo to try and grasp at market share in China. However, before any console can go on sale, it will first have to be approved by China’s Culture Ministry.
The news comes as Microsoft just announced a deal with a Chinese Internet TV company to produce games with them in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.
It’s not all sunshine and roses for the world’s major console manufacturers, though. While consoles have been officially banned, consoles that have been hacked to work with pirated games have been available in China for quite some time. That means official offerings are going to have to compete with a well-established black market that already has been providing interested consumers in China with the consoles that they want.
In addition, Microsoft and other console makers will be competing with local companies like Xiaomi have been working on set-top boxes that could act like game consoles.
Microsoft could also be at a disadvantage in the Middle Kingdom. Though the console is not region locked, Microsoft has delayed its launch in 8 of the countries that were expected to have supplies of the console on day one.
[Updated to clarify how the Xbox One will work in different regions.]
It’s possible that the approval process could be a boon to Microsoft by giving it a chance to spool up manufacturing before having to go to market in China.
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.