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China’s Culture Watchdog Writing Game Console Rules as Ban Lifts

China’s Ministry of Culture, one of the government bodies that monitors media content, will be responsible for drafting new rules on video-game consoles after a 14-year-old ban was lifted.

The rules will be written as soon as possible, Cai Wu, the head of the ministry, said at a press conference in Beijing today without providing a specific time frame.

Game consoles were originally banned in 2000 to protect youths from a perceived corrupting influence, a move that was temporarily lifted this week in the new Shanghai free-trade zone as China decides how hardware and software may be approved for sale by regulators. The move potentially gives Nintendo Co. (7974), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Sony Corp. (6758) access to a $10 billion market that’s now dominated by mobile, online and computer games.

“Things that are hostile to China, or not in conformity with the outlook of China’s government, won’t be allowed” under the rules of the free-trade zone, Cai said. “We want to open the window a crack to get some fresh air, but we still need a screen to block the flies and mosquitoes.”

Cai, 64, has served as the nation’s minister of culture since March 2008. Last April, Cai said China’s government shouldn’t “go beyond its duties to intervene in the commercial cultural market,” saying interference should be reduced when it comes to the development of various art forms, the official Xinhua News Agency reported at the time.

Nintendo, Microsoft

Computer games in China have proliferated beyond consoles to smartphones and the Internet, so people who want to play games already can. China had announced last year that the ban would be lifted within the Shanghai zone, which opened in September.

Yasuhiro Minagawa, a spokesman for Kyoto, Japan-based Nintendo, said this week the company is studying what it can do in the zone. Sony also said it will look at opportunities in China.

Microsoft and BesTV New Media Co., a subsidiary of Shanghai Media Group, in September said they formed a $79 million gaming venture to take advantage of the new rules.

China is the world’s third-largest market for video games and will generate revenue of about $10 billion in 2015, according to data from PwC on the consultant’s website. The nation may overtake Japan to become the second-largest behind the U.S. by 2017, it said.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Edmond Lococo in Beijing at elococo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net

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