PS4, Xbox One sales in China low as gamers snub consoles despite end of 14-year ban: report
Sales of the recently released PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in China are likely to be disappointing despite the fact that local gamers have not had access to games consoles for years due to a government ban, a new report claims.
Combined sales of the two consoles in China will fail to reach 550,000 units in 2015, according to an estimate this week by Niko Partners, a research firm that studies gaming markets in Asia.
Worldwide, 2.4 million PS4 consoles were sold in the first quarter of the year, compared to 1.34 million Xbox Ones, according to statistics from Sony Computer Entertainment, which makes the PlayStation consoles, and Microsoft, which developed the Xbox.
Microsoft entered the Chinese market in September 2014, while Sony's console went on sale this March. Depsite some initial interest from the Chinese public, the bizz on both counts seems to have subsequently died down.
The Xbox One was the first console to be released in mainland China after Beijing banned consoles in 2000, citing their adverse effect on Chinese youth.
Nonetheless, consoles sold on the grey market have proliferated in China. Most were imports from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
While exact figures are hard to come by, one version of Grand Theft Auto V that was modified to run on grey market consoles was downloaded more than 10 million times from Chinese website Ali213.net within three months of the title’s release in November 2014.
The Xbox One went on sale for 3,699 yuan (US$680), while the PS4 originally retailed for 2,899 yuan. Microsoft has since dropped the price of its console to 2,999 yuan.
Many Chinese consumers may also be priced out of the market as the average monthly salary in first-tier Chinese cities is now between 5,300 and 5,900 yuan, according to state media statistics.
The availability of grey market consoles, coupled with the high prices of the devices and limited availability of games, may explain why sales have failed to take off.
According to IT World, Chinese gamers are much more limited in their choice of titles than their Western counterparts. US bestsellers like Grand Theft Auto and the Call of Duty series have not been released in China, likely because of the government's strict regulation of violent and sexual content.
If Sony and Microsoft can release more titles in China, the market may pick up, Niko Partners said.
The report predicted that revenue from China’s TV-based gamers – those who play on a console or smart TV – will hit US$654 million in 2015, rising to around US$3 billion by 2019.
“Despite China being a predominantly PC online gaming culture, Chinese who are now 26 to 35 years old grew up in the days of Nintendo Super Famicom consoles and are accustomed to playing games with a controller via a TV,” said Lisa Cosmas Hanson, managing partner and founder of Niko Partners.
“These gamers will drive adoption of ‘over-the-top’ (OTT) games played on smart TVs as well as the use of game consoles, and thus will begin the transformation of the living room to entertainment centre," she added.
"For the average gamer, access to major titles with Chinese subtitles or dubbed in Mandarin will be vital," Jack Chuang, an associate parner at OC&C Strategy Consultants, told the Post after the launch of the PS4.
Microsoft and Sony did not respond to requests for comment.
While the two console makers may have struggled to gain market share, China's PC and mobile gaming market is booming.
According to consultancy iResearch, in the first quarter of 2015 the Chinese gaming market exceeded US$4.8 billion.
That figure is expected to grow to US$22.2 billion by the end of this year, research firm Newzoo said in a recent report, as China overtakes the US for the first time.