Next-Gen Gaming Consoles Like PlayStation 4 Are Leaving Chinese Players Behind

C. Custer
9:30 am on Mar 4, 2013

Video-sharing on the PS4

Sony announced the PlayStation 4 a couple weeks ago, and it looks pretty sweet. Aside from the inevitable graphics upgrade, the console’s biggest change appears to be a strategic shift towards more online interaction. It will feature live-streaming game video and remote play so that your friends can watch as you play games, and you can even pass the controller around. All the games will be available as direct digital downloads (though discs will be available too). All in all, it sounds pretty cool.

Unless, that is, you’re a console gamer in China. That’s a small group, of course, but they do exist, and they are beginning to realize that next-gen consoles like the PS4 may offer them less than ever. Of course, they can still enjoy the HD games, but the increasing focus on online service is mostly wasted in China, for a couple of reasons.

First, because of China’s console ban, most gaming companies don’t bother to operate servers in mainland China. Consoles are still widely available in China, but playing online can be a laggy mess because Chinese players are forced to connect to servers overseas. And while digital downloads may seem like a big convenience, they’re likely to be unusable for Chinese gamers. Even if the PS4’s online store isn’t region-locked, it isn’t likely to take Chinese bank cards or Alipay. And if Chinese gamers do manage to buy something, they can look forward to an extra-long download as next-gen games are likely to be very large.

The other problem is that in general, internet speeds in China aren’t great. Even without the console ban, Chinese gamers lag (literally) behind their Asian counterparts when it comes to online gaming. Even China-based video streaming sites don’t stream video content in HD*, and it seems unlikely that current connection speeds would be able to support features like 1080p live screen sharing, no matter how well-optimized it is.

Of course, the upside of Sony’s new console is that, with its departure from the Cell architecture of its predecessor and the return to more PC-like hardware, it’s likely going to be much easier to hack. So, once again, Chinese gamers are likely to be stuck with gray market consoles and pirated games. The graphics of the next-gen consoles will be nicer, of course, but pixel-peeping gamers are already playing on PCs.

It’s a shame that gaming companies don’t do more to try to accomodate Chinese console gamers, but of course, with the country’s console ban, there isn’t much they can do. That’s a law the government should really be rethinking. There really isn’t a lot of interest in console gaming in China, but I still feel for the nation’s small but stalwart bunch of console fans.

*Many Chinese video sites do claim to have HD content, but most of what’s labeled HD is still lower-resolution than what would be considered HD in the West. I’m not aware of any streaming sites that support 1080p content, and even 720p seems to be quite rare.

  • jaykchen

    If Sony doesn’t come up with a new way of gaming, i.e. immersive gaming with head mounted display, motion sensing, or eye tracking; it’ll lose to PC gaming in a couple of years. Bumping up picture quality, moving toward online download, are NOT enough to help the company regain momentum.

  • Roleparadise

    jaykchen: That statement is just ignorant. Consoles will never lose to PC. Consoles are cheap; PCs aren’t. A majority of gamers aren’t going to fork over the amount of money for a gaming rig when the PS4 has improved graphics for two thirds the price.

  • jaykchen

    Roleparadise: You’re probably commenting from a hardcore gamer’s perspective, I have no objections. However, the majority of gamers start gaming from PCs, or smartphone/tablet in today’s context, I don’t see a lot of them converting to console based hardcore gamers, at least that’s my observation in China.

  • Stephen David Kellogg

    Personally, I find the PS4 to be a great change in gaming. But all it’s doing currently is starting a new console wars.
    It’s just the same thing over and over, “Who will bring out the best console ever!?!?”.
    But there is no denying that the console, does in fact, look pretty awesome.

  • Tenyu Huang

    Sorry though, I’m a Chinese player myself and have to say that this article is MOSTLY (yes, not totally – some part DOES make sense) a proof of ignorant, for the following reasons:
    a) We’re not North Korean and we do not live in the age of LAN. We do have fairly affordable 20M+ cable Internet access; and although you would experience lag in a lot of multiplayer games yet to offer servers in China, they would be in acceptable range with the aid of affordable VPN services;
    b) We do have something called Visa and Mastercard. We do use Unionpay via Paypal. We’re already buying games from Steam, PSN and XBL. Everything payable – “download content unusable” busted;
    c) We do buy legit copies of game, and they stack up to considerable mass compared to the fact that almost 99% of software WERE pirated copy here. Publishers are not sitting out there for death sentence: instead they are taking action to promote legally obtained software and these countermeasures are begining to show effect. For example the Windows 8 upgrade promotion which takes you only 98CNY (~15USD) is a huge success.
    d) An architecture that is close to a PC does not equal to “this toy can be easily cracked”. There are a lot of PC softwares/games that have been troubling the cracking scene for YEARS – among them are some wonderfully programmed ones that prevent you from cracking them even without the aid of hardware encryption.

    If something are really spoiling the fun for Chinese players, they would be:
    a) The infamous console ban – doesn’t seem to be much of a problem because before PS3 gets cracked people are already used to the way of playing illegally imported PS3 in a legit way;
    b) Region-locked games – Steam is already doing this and I have to say I’m p–ssed off;
    c) Heavily modified content due to import restrictions – see World of Warcraft;
    d) Bad localization – not cared for most people as long as they are not awkward;
    e) Lame – I mean, really really lame software customer services.

    So that’s it. China is not that horrible.
    Hope you guys investigate before you write next time… sincerely.

  • C. Custer

    @ Tenyu:

    a) 20M connections are not common outside tier 1 and 2 cities. Moreover, no PS4 games will have China-based servers since consoles remain illegal in China, so even on a 20M connection you’re going to get plenty of lag. You can see more data on this here, the data is about half a year old so those numbers will be a bit higher now, but as you can see, average broadband speed is still quite low. Here’s another source of similar data that’s a little newer.

    b) Sure, some people do have VISA or Mastercard, but how many? Those cards are not particularly common except among wealthy people who travel outside China a lot because they’re not particularly useful inside China, often coming with a pretty significant service charge if you try. I couldn’t find any numbers of total cards, but you can see this recent Bloomberg article: “Domestically, UnionPay dominates the payments market.”

    c) Sure, some people buy legit games, but again, do most people? For that matter, what percentage of Chinese computer users have taken advantage of that win 8 upgrade? Some people do do these things. But most? No. If piracy wasn’t still rampant, Chinese games wouldn’t virtually all be using subscription or microtransaction models.

    d) No, but a PC-like architecture does often make cracking easier. There’s a reason you can find modded Xboxes everywhere but hacked PS3s are much harder to find, and the weird-ass cell architecture is part of it. This article explains why the cell architecture made hacking the PS3 harder (at the end of the post).

    Those other things you point out are also lame, but the ones I didn’t mention aren’t in the article because that have nothing to do with consoles. A is mentioned in the article, B is irrelevant because of the ban users wouldn’t be buying legit consoles or “china” region games anyway, so you could presumably buy a console for whatever region you wanted, C is irrelevant because of the ban, D is not specific to console gaming, and E is not specific to console gaming.

    I never said China was horrible. Hope you’ll read more carefully next time… sincerely.

  • Tenyu Huang

    @C. Custer:

    My apologize for not reading carefully enough.
    I read this from Tencent’s game portal ( and Googl’d back here.

    Now I’ve read your original version – seemed that it was their translation proved to be mixed with agression.

    Again, sorry for my mistake.

  • C. Custer

    Yes, their translation is fucking awful. Even the title is wrong.

  • Mr. Ma

    Most China’s banks issue Unipay + Visa/Master cards. And those cards are commonly hold. Yes, they are the cards behind Alipay.
    The lag is an issue, yet most of the time it’s acceptable. Actually, it’s more about the bandwidth. When gaming between 2 Chinese players, it’s more fair. LOL.
    About the market, the official consoles sold in China is ZERO. How about the sales in Hong Kong? Do you have the numbers? Perhaps you can find the answers on site like Taobao to see how many games are sold everyday. Players using consoles won’t play them in the street like ipad players. Sadly, they won’t tell you.
    Well, at least Ubisoft and Koei have studios in China’s mainland. SCE also released more and more localized games for Chinese in last a few years.
    Facebook censored, low bandwidth, yet, we still enjoy all good games.
    After all, I like the title. We, Chinese players, like chasing NG Consoles from behind.

  • http://no Andrew

    FUCK U GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHY MUST U BE SO RACIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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