Last Friday, reports showed up that Xbox Live in China was giving out digital copies of Assassins Creed III. A few hours after that, images of other games had begun showing up on the website, games with domestic pricing. It seems that Xbox Live is now live in China.
Late last year in August, it was confirmed that Microsoft had launched the Xbox Live website in China. The website until last weekend was devoid of any games, it had a simple login and personal hub. Now it has games such as Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 priced in RMB. Not only are games priced, downloadable content has been priced in Microsoft points. It appears that Chinese gamers can buy games off the Chinese site by using a Chinese credit card. A colleague of mine tried and was able to purchase a game.
According to the Xbox Live China's website, there are 62 listed games in all. Not all are available for purchase, some only have DLC available and some are available for pre-order.
On top of making games available, it also seems that Microsoft is distributing games that aren't technically allowed in China. A thread in NeoGaf appeared Friday morning revealing that Xbox Live China was selling Assassins Creed III for free. According to a source at Ubisoft, last Friday's free distribution of Assassin's Creed III was something solely done by Microsoft. Our source said that Assassin's Creed III wasn't allowed for distribution in China because Ubisoft did not receive the right permissions to do so from the government. We have sent out an email to Ubisoft to confirm and are awaiting a response.
It's currently unknown what the addition of purchasing means for Xbox in China. Home consoles in China are currently banned and the status of the ban post leadership change remains the same.
Game industry watchers such as Yang Bin at Sina.com says that this might be Microsoft testing the waters for the eventual roll out of it's Xbox in China.
"Microsoft's movements indicate that they're preparing for the Xbox 720 or whatever it's going to be called," said Yang.
Yu Yi, an analyst at Analysis International repeated similar statements that Yang said. Yu says that the recent leaks of the PlayStation 3 certification and the arrival of Xbox Live signals changes to come in China.
“Foreign media has a hard time understanding China, even the Chinese have a hard time understanding how things work," said Yu. "Right now what we're seeing is that companies are looking to expand their online social reach."
"This means that Microsoft with its Xbox Live is preparing to enter the online social game space. This might be an indication of things to come."
Kotaku has reached out to Microsoft China for comment, we are still awaiting an official response.