China is one of the world’s biggest gaming markets, with mobile gaming leading the pack. However, recent restrictions on young gaming, including a strict limit of up to three hours play time a week, has inflicted a significant blow on the market, the money being made by it's publishers and their ability to make future games.
Now, Sony and Microsoft are looking to take advantage of the new restrictions to make larger inroads in the market by paving the way to console development through cash investment.
Sony has announced it will be expanding its China Hero Project to accelerate game development in the country, with the company’s director of game production in China, Bao Bo, stating that Sony will invest more than one million yuan ($140,000) in each game taking part.
Sony has already made a significant mark on the Chinese market thanks to an exclusivity deal for miHoYo’s megahit Genshin Impact. Despite mobile’s undisputed status as China’s biggest market platform, thanks in part to a 14-year ban on consoles which ended in 2015, the PlayStation brand has grown significantly. Niko Partners state that the country is currently the PS5’s sixth largest market, with sales forecast to exceed one million units this year.
Don't get left behind
This push has caused Microsoft to increase their own efforts in China, attempting to attract Chinese developers to Xbox through licensing deals. These efforts include bringing NetEase hit Naraka Bladepoint to Game Pass and partnering with Chinese companies Youyun and Pyou on cloud-based gaming platforms.
Despite the two company’s battle for dominance, they both trail Switch in terms of sales, and an upcoming Switch port of Genshin Impact has the potential to further cement Nintendo’s offering as the country’s most profitable console.
However, the console space has a long way to go to catch up to mobile gaming in China, in spite of recent restrictions. All of the country’s leading game companies, including Tencent, the most profitable games company in the world, are 'mobile-first'. As a result, any significant shift in market share as a result of recent restrictions and a move away from mobile development is likely to occur slowly.
Earlier this month, Activision Blizzard and NetEase announced their intentions to suspend game services in China due to the expiration of their licensing deal.