* Games subsidiary Eedoo plans autumn start for iSec console
* Company touts iSec as "home entertainment device," not
just for games
* Sony, Microsoft, hopeful restrictions will ease soon
* "Entrenched" online game sector may limit market for
By Isabel Reynolds
TOKYO, July 6 Lenovo's launch of a home
videogame console in China this year may throw into question the
country's decade-old ban on the gadgets and could eventually
open the $5.8 billion Chinese game market to Sony Corp
and Microsoft .
Eedoo Technology, a games subsidiary of PC giant Lenovo
Group , plans to launch its iSec console, a
gesture-controlled gadget akin to Microsoft's Kinect, in China
in September or early October, Zhang Zhitong, a company
spokesman said. He declined to say if it had official
"This makes it curious about the law that bans consoles,"
said Lisa Cosmas Hanson of Niko Partners, an Asian game market
Hanson said the law effectively banning the sale of games
consoles has been in place since 2000 and came about after
pressure from disapproving parents.
An apparent breach of the regulation could spark accusations
"Somehow they're getting away with this where the other
console companies are not," Hanson added. "Let's say you're
touting this product as a competitor to the Kinect, then why
doesn't Kinect qualify?"
China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology,
which governs the game industry, did not respond to questions
submitted by fax and telephone about the Eedoo launch or the
status of the ban.
Eedoo declined to comment on whether it had official
permission to launch the console, which has been delayed from an
initial launch date in the first quarter of the
But the company emphasised its console can be used for more
than just games and said it was in talks with government
authorities, although the specific nature of the talks is
"This device can show pictures, play music, go online and
has many other functions," Eedoo's Zhang said. "It is a home
entertainment device. The gaming function of the machine is just
one of its many capabilities."
The same argument could be used by Sony, whose PlayStation3
console doubles as a Blu-ray player and can be used to access
its Qriocity music and movie streaming services.
Sony has long lobbied for access to the Chinese market after
it pulled out following an officially sanctioned, but limited,
launch of the PlayStation 2 in 2004 that was abandoned in less
than a year.
Sony declined to specify reasons for the withdrawal, but
some in the industry blame overwhelming piracy while others say
it was due to a Chinese government about-face.
Sony's PS3 and Microsoft's Xbox are available on the grey
market in China, while Nintendo has a basic console, the iQue,
on sale via a local joint venture partner.
REVENUE BOOST FOR GAME MAKERS?
Permission to market the devices officially would likely
mean more profit for the games giants, but neither Sony nor the
Japanese government want to take a confrontational approach.
"The Chinese government ultimately needs to make the
decisions. We can't force it," said Kazuo Hirai, Sony's
second-in-command and the outgoing president of its games unit,
in an interview at the E3 games convention in Los Angeles in
He said the company was trying to persuade the Chinese
government of the potential benefits for Chinese software
developers of legalising consoles and that he was optimistic
about the outcome.
"I think the Chinese government is looking for a lot of
opportunities for exporting certainly a lot of hardware-based
products, but also culture and entertainment content as well.
I'm very optimistic that way," Hirai added.
Microsoft echoed Sony's upbeat outlook.
"While Xbox has not yet been introduced to the China market
due to restrictive policies, we are hopeful that we will be able
to take this step soon," a company spokeswoman said.
But even if the market is opened to the world's console
giants, the ban has enabled PC-based online gaming to dominate
the industry. It is unclear how many Chinese consumers would pay
extra for consoles.
"The PC online model's so entrenched there. Gamers love
playing those games because they don't really have to pay for a
specific hardware device," said Niko Partners' Hanson. "Consoles
would require a big investment and have limited use," she added.
(Additional reporting by Melanie Lee in SHANGHAI and Huang Yan
in BEIJING; Editing by Matt Driskill)