A Brief History of Chinese Game Consoles

China and video games have a long and ridiculous history, but in the age of the internet, it's a story that's yet to be completely put together. And so, here at Kotaku, we will try to make sense of the history of consoles in China. Stay awhile, and read?

One of the earliest game consoles to make it into the middle kingdom was the Nintendo Entertainment System or the Famicom. Of course at this time, in the eighties, legitimate systems were incredibly expensive. This isn't to say that other consoles weren't available in China early on, but in terms of mainstream systems, the first one came from Nintendo.

A Brief History of Chinese Game Consoles

Launched in 1987 during the era of the Famicom, the Subar Little Tyrant was one of the most famous and and well-known Famicom knock-offs of its time.

Famicom clones, Super Famicom clones, and Sega Genesis clones were the consoles of choice in China, and to some extent, Taiwan and Hong Kong, because of the relative cheapness of the systems. Cartridges were cloned or bootlegged for these cloned systems and even the original official systems. Oftentimes, the games would be mega packs, like a greatest hits compilation of, say, 16 best sellers on one cartridge.

It wasn't until 2000 and 2001 that the console ban started rolling in and the sphere of Chinese console gaming changed. Chinese companies still wanted to make video game consoles, and the bootleggers continued making clones—the only difference was in the marketing.

A Brief History of Chinese Game Consoles

In 2003, Nintendo and its Chinese partners created iQue and launched the first iQue plug and play systems, which were based off the then new Nintendo 64. While the rest of the world was already on the GameCube, China had the iQue. Yes, yes, the iQue is basically a Nintendo console, but it was made and produced by a Chinese company. These iQue systems would virtually all plug and play machines until the iQue DS came out. Being that the iQue DS being a regular DS with Chinese region settings, it doesn't make this list.

A Brief History of Chinese Game Consoles

At the same time, AtGames came out with their Sega Mega Drive (Genesis to us US folks) clone. AtGames is still around today, making consoles and portable devices, much like how Subor is still in business.

When the seventh generation of consoles came about, the Wii was all the rage. The most famous of Wii clones at this time was the Vii. Keep in mind that consoles were banned in China at this time.

A Brief History of Chinese Game Consoles

The Vii, also known by its official name, the Sport Vii, was released in 2007 as a cheaper (read: knock-off) and well... not as good version of the Nintendo Wii. The console, also a plug and play machine, was sold at half the price of the Wii. Since video game consoles were technically banned at this time, the Vii was marketed as an exercise machine. The trend of "labelling" consoles as other things would continue all the way to the eedoo CT-510.

A Brief History of Chinese Game Consoles

It wasn't until 2011 that a legitimate Chinese game console would come to light. In 2011, concrete details about the Lenovo-backed eedoo console, known then as the iSec, appeared in China. It would take another year before the eedoo CT-510 would see the light of day. Marketed as a multimedia device, the CT-510 would release to a ridiculous price of about $600.

Now this is where things start getting heated. After 10 plus years of restricting consoles in China, the console ban has been lifted. With the ban lifted, domestic companies have been quite verbal about launching their own hardware for the Chinese market. Some have been so vocal that they've even gone and debuted a product.

As of January, there are now two new Chinese consoles looking to hit the market, one from Chinese mobile phone and communications giant Huawei, and another from TV maker TCL. It's unknown when exactly these puppies will be released.

瘾科技Engadget独家报道:Vii火拼Wii [Engadget Chinese]

Bootleg Games Wiki [Bootleg games wiki]

Huawei Pushes Into Living Room [Wall Street Journal]

TCL Throw's Hat Into Nations Emerging Console Gaming Market [PC-World]

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Eric is a Beijing based writer and all around FAT man. You can contact him @FatAsianTechie@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @FatAsianTechie