Xbox One Launch In China Delayed, Microsoft Anti-Trust Investigation To Blame?

Microsoft was supposed to launch the Xbox One in China this Tuesday, September 23. The company shockingly announced Saturday that those plans have been put on hold. The question on the minds of many is whether this is because of an issue with the Xbox One console or due to Chinese regulators.

China recently lifted a 12-year old ban on the purchase of video games and consoles. Microsoft quickly struck a deal with BesTV to release the Xbox One in the region in an attempt to beat Sony’s PlayStation 4. The plan to release the console was mysteriously delayed with the following statement picked up by GeekWire.

“At Xbox, we pride ourselves on delivering first rate gaming and entertainment experiences and to allow us to deliver on that promise we need to reschedule the launch of Xbox One,” Microsoft said in a statement. “Working with our partner, BesTV, we look forward to launching in China by the end of this year.”

The exact reason for the delay was never revealed. Gamer Syndrome recently reported that Xbox One games will be sold in China with a single-use activation code that will prevent it from being resold or used games from being played. The console will also be region-locked.

The single-use activation code is similar to what Microsoft originally announced for the Xbox One but decided against after a backlash from consumers. It’s not clear if it is being brought back for the China launch due to piracy concerns or Chinese regulations. The region-locking is likely due to Chinese regulations to prevent games that the government disapproves of from being played.

Xbox One China
Microsoft's and BesTV's partnership announcement to launch Xbox One in China.

Chinese regulations may be why Microsoft has had to halt its launch. Reuters reported back in August that regulators from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) raided Microsoft offices. The company was then given an ultimatum on September 1 to provide answers in 20 days to questions around “compatibility and bundling issues with its software” over anti-trust concerns, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It can’t be a coincidence that Microsoft’s announcement to delay the Xbox One comes at the same time as this deadline. China is a lucrative market for Western countries to enter but it is also fraught with concerns over how to deal with a country whose regulators can makes change on a whim.

As an example, Sony attempted to launch the PlayStation 2 in China in 2003. The Chinese Ministry of Culture banned the console just ahead of its launch. It was eventually released in 2004 with only 10 games that had to be approved by government regulators. Unsurprisingly, Sony pulled out of the country in 2005. Kotaku has a translation of a Chinese Netease article covering the PS2 release saga in the country.

Do you think the Xbox One will ever launch in China? Or will Chinese regulators keep Microsoft and the console from making it out?

[Images via Microsoft]