Ban has been in effect 12 years

BEIJING — China may end a 12-year ban on the sale of electronic games consoles like PlayStation and Nintendo as fears ease of ideological and moral harm to the country’s 120 million online gamers.

“We are reviewing the policy and have conducted some surveys and held discussions with other ministries on the possibility of opening up the game console market,” an anonymous source in the Ministry of Culture told the China Daily newspaper.

Seven Chinese ministries banded together in 2000 to force a ban on the sale and import of the consoles, citing fears about the potential harm to the physical and mental development of the young.

“We will need approval from all parties to lift it,” the source said.

These days, China is a big market for tablets and smartphones so most people can play games on their handhelds, rendering a ban on games consoles increasingly redundant.

And anyone who really wants games consoles can find them, as Wii, Microsoft’s Xbox and the others are available on the black market.

Removing restrictions on consoles is unlikely to mean the open sale of games in China, and the software will be subject to strict censorship, just like movies, apps and books.

The news boosted shares in Sony, which makes PlayStation, by nearly 9% in Tokyo, while Nintendo shares rose more than 8%.

“Investors are welcoming the report,” Mitsuo Shimizu, a Tokyo-based analyst at Iwai Cosmo Holdings told Bloomberg. “It would open up a new and huge market for the videogame makers.”

Consoles are made in China though not for domestic consumption. China is the world’s biggest manufacturing base for Xbox, for example.

Speculation that the ban might be lifted began in November when PlayStation 3 received a certification of quality from a Chinese safety standards body.

Microsoft introduced its Kinect, a controller-free game console, to the Mainland in October, saying it would have a primarily educational and vocational function.

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