Sony launches PlayStation 5 console in China ahead of Microsoft’s Xbox

In this photo illustration, a PlayStation 5 logo is displayed on a smartphone.

Mateusz Slodkowski | SOPA pictures | LightRocket via Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China – Sony officially launched its PlayStation 5 console in China on Thursday.

The disc version of the PS5 costs 3,899 yuan ($ 602) while the digital model costs 3,099 yuan.

The Sony console will go on sale in China on May 15th. Pre-orders will start on April 29th.

Official releases of game consoles in China have only been possible since 2014 after a 14-year ban on these products was lifted. The ban has made PC, and now mobile, the dominant form of gaming among Chinese consumers.

Strict censorship laws and lengthy approval processes also mean console manufacturers have a more difficult job of officially getting their products out in China. While the PS5 was launched worldwide in November 2020, it won’t hit the Chinese market until months later.

This has created a buoyant so-called “gray market” where vendors often import consoles from Hong Kong and Japan and sell them through Chinese e-commerce websites, often at a huge premium.

“Demand for PS5 has been high in China since it was launched outside the country in November 2020,” said Daniel Ahmed, senior analyst at Niko Partners.

“Console gamers in China who couldn’t wait had to pay almost double the suggested retail price to import a console from overseas,” Ahmed said, adding that this was due to product shortages and increased demand, which is driving prices in soared.

“Genshin Impact” among the published games

Games also have to go through Chinese censors. That means some games in China may not be released if they disturb Beijing’s sensibility.

Sony said the PS5 would launch with three games – Sackboy, Ratchet and Clank and Genshin Impact – the latter is an extremely popular game from a Chinese developer. Another Chinese game maker called Ultizero Games is bringing its “Lost Soul Aside” title to the PS5.

The PlayStation 5 will face competition from the Nintendo Switch in mainland China, the country’s most successful console to date.

Daniel Ahmed

Senior Analyst at Niko Partners

More games from Chinese developers would come to the console at some point, as would original first-party titles from Sony.

Chinese PlayStation Plus subscribers can also play 12 PS4 games as part of their subscription.

Competition in china

Sony isn’t the first foreign next-generation console to be released in China.

Nintendo launched its Switch in 2019 in partnership with Chinese tech giant Tencent to bring the console to market.

In January Tencent announced that Nintendo had shipped 1 million Switch consoles in China.

“The PlayStation 5 will face competition from the Nintendo Switch in mainland China, the country’s most successful console to date. The Switch’s hybrid characteristics, social game features and high-quality software have contributed to its success in China.” Ahmed said.

Consoles are still a niche in China due to a number of barriers such as price, regulations, and the lack of games for Chinese gamers.

Daniel Ahmed

Senior Analyst at Niko Partners

“Sony also has a strong first-party proposition and has worked with local game developers such as Ultizero Games to bring unique titles such as Lost Soul Aside to consoles and increase console appeal in China.”

Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Series S, which launched worldwide in November, have not yet released in China. Xbox received security clearances for its hardware, due for release in China late last year. Microsoft has not announced when the new Xbox generation will be launched in China.

Total domestic game revenue in 2020 was more than $ 40 billion, with the majority coming from mobile games, according to Niko Partners. Console game sales are only around 2% of total gaming sales in China.

“Consoles are still a niche in China due to a number of barriers such as price, regulations and the lack of games for Chinese gamers,” Ahmed said.

“If Sony can address these challenges and address the changing needs of gamers in China, it can do so, especially as the country’s disposable income for entertainment and gaming time increases.”

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