Sony to Start Selling PlayStation in China Next Month

Follows Xbox Into Country After Ban on Consoles Is Lifted

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Credit: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg
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Sony Corp. will release its PlayStation 4 console in China next month, following Microsoft Corp. into the world's biggest game market after the government eased restrictions.

Sales will start Jan. 11 with a price of 2,899 yuan ($469), Tokyo-based Sony said in a statement yesterday. The handheld PlayStation Vita will also begin sales at the same time at 1,299 yuan.

Console makers and game developers are pouring into China after the end of a government ban imposed in 2000, trying to win over a generation of players who shifted to computers and mobile devices. Gaming is one of the few bright spots for Sony, which has sold more than 16 million units of the PS4 according to industry data, as the company heads for another annual loss and has been embarrassed by a computer hack in Hollywood.

Sony plans to start packaging consoles for the China market this month. Its venture with Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group Co. intends to package 200,000 consoles annually, according to a filing earlier this year on the website of the Shanghai free-trade zone.

The PS4 will be released with games including versions of Final Fantasy as well as other titles including Knack and Little Big Planet 3, subject to government approval of content. Microsoft released the Xbox One in September with just 10 titles from the hundreds released for the console because of government content restrictions.

"Sony will try its best to offer Chinese customers a PlayStation consistent with its global offerings, and compliant with government regulations," Takehito Soeda, head of China Strategy Department for the PlayStation business, said at a briefing in Shanghai yesterday, without elaborating.

The PS4 has sold 16.1 million units since its release last year, according to data from VGChartz, compared with 9.1 million for the XBox One and 7.9 million for Nintendo Co.'s Wii U.

Sony also announced some Chinese produced games, including fighting game King of Wushu that features characters doing battle in arenas with pagodas, temples and mountains in the background.

Sony is working with 26 Chinese companies for the market, according to the statement. The PS4 will also partner with 21 developers from Asia and a further 25 from Europe and North America, the company said.

"We always say you need three things to do business in China," said Hiroyuki Oda, deputy president of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Asia. "We think we truly have the right time, right place and right people."

Sony has two ventures with Shanghai Oriental. The Japanese company holds a 70% stake in one entity that's for hardware production and 49% in another for software sales and networks.

The expansion into China comes as Sony plans to boost cloud-based gaming by creating a mass-market streaming service similar to Netflix Inc. The PlayStation Network has more than 50 million active users, and its PlayStation Now service is available in North America for streaming content on Bravia TVs and other Sony devices.

--Bloomberg News