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A customer holds Microsoft's Xbox One game console limited edition in an electronic shop in Shanghai on September 29, 2014. Johannes Eisele / AFP / Getty Images

The Xbox One Just Launched in China and It's Super Expensive

Sep 29, 2014

The Xbox One launched in China today, September 29. It's a vaguely historic moment, as it's the first foreign games console to be officially allowed in the country in 14 years. This, after a six-day delay for unknown reasons.

People actually lined up for the box, says Kotaku. That's despite the price tag of 3,699 yuan, or about $600 -- and that's without Kinect, mind you. The Kinect-less version of the system in the U.S. goes for $399, same as Sony's PlayStation 4. The Chinese are paying 50% more, in other words.

When the Wall Street Journal wrote about that jacked-up price this summer, it noted the obvious: things like tariffs and exchange rates play a role, so that's part of it. China's version of the Xbox One comes with a two-year warranty (we get just one here), six months of Xbox Live Gold (as opposed to 30 days here, and membership is $60 a year), plus a few free games (Powerstar Golf, Neverwinter Online) and discounts on others.

But that still doesn't explain the 50% hike, even when you take into account disparities between the U.S. and China in household incomes, the level of debt to average income, the number of homeowners with mortgages and so forth. The in-betweeners must be taking a generous slice.

The Xbox One was supposed to go live in China six days ago, September 23. Why Microsoft delayed is anyone's guess (not to rethink launch pricing, apparently). The challenge Microsoft faces from here is competing with the black market, where foreign-wrought game consoles have been on sale throughout the ban for considerably less moola.

Side musing: I've never understood why there's so much English on the packaging of products sold in countries where English is spoken by a fraction of the populace (less than 1% in China). English is the third most populous language in the world, not the first. But still: "Limited Edition," in great big West Germanic letters (instead of the Chinese equivalent, which Google Translate tells me should be something like "限量版") on the side of that Limited Edition Xbox One in the shot above.

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