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Report: Firmware update sets Chinese Xbox Ones region free

Machines thought to be able to play imported games, international multiplayer

Reports from China are indicating that a firmware update has removed regional restrictions on Xbox Ones in the country, leaving them able to play games imported from elsewhere in the world, and potentially play online with players from other countries.

The initial reports come from Hao Gamers, with other sites, such as MyDrivers confirming that international versions of games have been successfully installed on Chinese machines. Reports of access to international servers are as yet unconfirmed, but Microsoft has been contacted for clarification on the issue.

The Xbox One launched in China last September, reporting very healthy sales of over 100,000 units in its first week. Sony came late to the race for the newly opened market, launching alongside the Vita on March 20, but coming region-free as standard.

With that disparity now gone, the two machines are just settling in to slug it out. What's most surprising about the situation, however, is that the Chinese authorities have allowed it at all, given that it potentially undermines the complex and rigorous rules over censorship and regulation which govern the importation of nearly all media in the country - rules which it was presumed would also extend to games. That they seem not to is at least a fairly benevolent anomaly, not something which the Chinese government is known for.

Predictions about the potential vastness of the Chinese market are all but ubiquitous, but the console market was not widely expected to be so successful, and certainly not so soon. If this loophole over allowing previously outlawed content proves to be a decisive factor in that growth, then the Chinese government's response to it, and whether it chooses to extend the same privileges elsewhere, will be very interesting indeed.