When it comes to China, Microsoft is being forced to take the bad with the good. So while the firm is currently being investigated there for alleged antitrust violations, it was also able to secure a launch date for Xbox One in that country. Microsoft's latest video game console will launch in China on September 23.
"We're honored that Xbox One is the first console approved for sale in China through the Shanghai Free Trade Zone," Microsoft corporate vice-president Yusuf Mehdi is credited with saying in a prepared statement. "We're dedicated to earning millions of fans in China by working with BesTV to deliver an all in one games and entertainment experience starting September 23."
Xbox One and other video game machines had been banned in China for 14 years because of a law aimed at curbing consumer exposure to violence and "moral decay." But under strict new laws in which outside companies must partner with Chinese firms in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, it's possible for Microsoft and others to begin selling video games in China again. Video game hardware must be physically built within this zone, and companies must work with local distributors and retailers to sell their products in China.
Both Microsoft and Sony moved quickly to secure partners and establish a launch schedule for their latest consoles. But Microsoft was able to secure the first place in line and will now launch Xbox One ahead of Sony's PlayStation 4 in China. This is a big deal because China is one of the biggest markets and economies on earth, and the PS4 is quickly distancing itself from the Xbox One in worldwide sales. If Xbox One is a hit in China, it could turn the tide for Microsoft.
Microsoft also announced that over 25 developers are building over 70 Xbox One games, many of which are specifically aimed at the Chinese market. And Microsoft and its partner, BeSTV, will deliver entertainment content such as "blockbuster movies, sports, documentaries and on-demand TV programs, fitness and exclusive, locally developed applications." But consumers in China will still be somewhat hamstrung by the country's strict laws, which will prevent certain violent or otherwise explicit content from being sold there.
The Xbox One will start at ¥3,699 RMB, or about US $600, a full $200 more than the entry level Xbox One consoles costs in the United States. (This model is presumably the version without Kinect.) But Chinese versions of the console come with two free games—"Powerstar Golf" and "Neverwinter Online"—plus a BesTV entertainment package, free Xbox Live Gold access through March 2015, and a two-year warranty. And blockbuster games like "Forza Motorsport 5" will cost ¥249 RMB, or about US $40, which is about $20 less than in the US. And an Xbox Live Gold subscription will set back Chinese consumers ¥199 RMB, or about US $32 per year.
Microsoft is also offering preorders today on a special edition Day One Xbox One package that includes a Kinect, a limited-edition commemorative China Day One controller, a Day One achievement (for the user's Xbox Live profile), and two additional games: "Kinect Sports Rivals" and "Forza Motorsport 5: Racing Game of the Year." This package costs ¥4,299 RMB, or about US $700, and is available while supplies last.