Lenovo has launched its first home entertainment console, skirting a Chinese ban on gaming equipment by marketing it as a family exercise device.
The move puts Lenovo in direct competition with Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft to capture market share in the unofficial Chinese console market. The device, developed by a Lenovo subsidiary called Eedoo, has been plagued by delays but went on sale in China this week for Rmb3799 ($604), nearly twice as much as the going rate for Microsoft's Xbox Kinect.
China has more gamers than any other country in the world, but a decade-old ban on gaming consoles has meant that the most popular machines, like Microsoft's Xbox, have never been launched officially in China. They are readily available for sale on the grey market but must first be smuggled in.
"In China this machine is the first of its kind – one that sells a gaming console through official channels," said Sun Mengzi, gaming analyst with Analysys International. "It is hard to tell how successful it will be, but at least it will test the water and may encourage more gaming hardware producers to come in."
The $17-billion global market for gaming consoles and handheld gaming machines is heavily dominated by Microsoft's Xbox, Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PlayStation, according to Gartner.
Eedoo's product, called the CT510, operates with motion-sensing cameras and comes with fitness games including kung fu and "family gym" titles.
"National policy bans the selling of gaming consoles, but the CT510 is a sports machine," said Jack Luo, chief executive of Eedoo. "We don't define it as a gaming console. The CT510 doesn't have fighting, or the cruel and bloody games that are common in a normal gaming console."
Mr. Luo added that the console can only be loaded with programs from Eedoo's app store, which contains wholesome family games such as English teaching programs for children, Karaoke and films. The target customers for the new console are wealthy families, professional women, children and older users.
The console went on sale in China on Sunday and Eedoo hopes to sell "tens of thousands" of the machines in the current fiscal year. The initial reaction from customers in China seems to be tepid, however, with Chinese tech blogs filled with complaints over the price of the machine.
A poll on Sina Weibo, China's largest microblog service, found that only 6 per cent of respondents voted to buy the new console, compared with 31 per cent who said they would not buy it because of poor value.