Technology

Microsoft pips Sony to launch Xbox One in China

Xbox China launch Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Limited edition Xbox One consoles were available

Microsoft has launched the Xbox One in China - becoming the first major console maker to enter what could be a massively lucrative market.

The first consoles were sold in Shanghai, priced at 4,299 yuan ($699, £430). Sony and Nintendo are yet to launch their respective products.

In January, the Chinese government lifted a 14-year ban on consoles, made because of worries over content.

However, many popular titles, such as Call of Duty, will still be banned.

Only 10 games were available to buy on the Xbox One's release - but Microsoft has said 70 titles are in the pipeline.

Beating its rivals to the market may give Microsoft a much-needed sales boost. Its console is currently being outsold by Sony's PlayStation 4 in all major markets.

But Piers Harding-Rolls, a games analyst from IHS, told the BBC: "There's advantages and disadvantages in being first.

Media captionThe BBC's Martin Patience reports as the Xbox console goes on sale in China

"There's obviously potential. Overcoming the issues of piracy, overcoming the issues of pricing, having the right content to connect with the local audience - those are all big issues."

Sony has set up business partnerships to launch the PS4 in China, but a date has not yet been set.

Both companies will compete with a thriving black market in illegally imported consoles playing pirated versions of games.

The firms will also come up against mobile games, which are not banned in China and are extremely popular.

Ticking the boxes

The Xbox One launch was originally set to happen last week but was delayed - Microsoft did not give a reason why.

The US firm is currently the focus of an anti-monopoly investigation relating to its Office software.

The company's chief executive Satya Nadella visited the country last week, and pledged to help the government with its investigation.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Minecraft could be a major draw in China

Getting games to market is likely to require negotiation with regulators, who favour educational games over those with violent themes.

But that could play well for Microsoft thanks to its recent acquisition of Minecraft - a block-building online game that is massively popular in the Western world, particularly with young children.

"I don't think Minecraft has been heavily exposed to the Chinese market," Mr Harding-Rolls said.

"It ticks all the boxes for regulatory requirements in China. It's educational, it's not heavily violent.

"I would suspect that they're thinking very seriously about bringing it to China. It sits well with the regulatory demands."

Microsoft bought Minecraft's Swedish developer Mojang earlier this month for $2.5bn (£1.5bn).

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

More on this story