China has officially approved plans to lift a 13-year ban on the sales of video game consoles in the country, heralding in a huge market for game console developers such as Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft.

The move to lift the ban is part of the plans that the State Council has approved for the free-trade zone located in the Chinese city of Shanghai. The game console ban was introduced in the year 2000 due to concerns about the content of international games, and the possible effect that violent titles could have on young children.

The only condition: it seems that these game developers will need to set up operations within the Shanghai free-trade zone, given that the announcement was contained within a document laying out the rules of the free-trade area issued by the State Council.

After going through the necessary official approvals, these companies can then sell their video game consoles to the mainland domestic market.

There has been a lot of hype over the Shanghai free-trade zone that is set to open on September 29, and which has been designated as a place with more freedom — somewhat like Chinese territory Hong Kong with its own separate laws — as the Chinese government is keen to test the ground for significant financial and economic reforms on the mainland.

Microsoft already took its first step a few days ago, announcing a joint venture with Chinese company BesTV to develop games — with the venture to be registered in the same Shanghai free-trade zone.

There was no mention of relaxing Internet policies though, so it seems that rumors of the Facebook and Twitter ban being lifted in the Shanghai free-trade zone have fallen flat.

Still, it is a sign of progress that China has relaxed its hold on the sales of video game consoles — a huge market that analysts have predicted could add billions of dollars to the industry if the ban is lifted. Reports estimate that China’s game industry brought in $9.7 billion in revenue last year across all segments, and the figure could grow to $21.7 billion by 2017.

However, it remains to be seen if the Chinese population — which now has a generation of gamers who have grown up without consoles and are used to PC-based and mobile games instead — will take to video game consoles. After all, we are already seeing how smartphone-based games and apps are taking huge chunks out of the portable gaming handheld market worldwide.

(hat/tip Michael Kan)

Headline image via Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images