• Bloomberg

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Sony Corp. will release its PlayStation 4 console in China next month, following Microsoft Corp. into the world’s biggest game market after the government eased restrictions.

Sales will start Jan. 11 with a price of 2,899 yuan ($469), Tokyo-based Sony said in a statement Thursday. The handheld PlayStation Vita will also begin sales at the same time at 1,299 yuan.

Console makers and game developers are pouring into China after the end of a Chinese government ban imposed in 2000, trying to win over a generation of players who shifted to computers and mobile devices. Gaming is one of the few bright spots for Sony, which has sold more than 16 million units of the PS4 since its release last year, as the group heads for another annual loss and has been embarrassed by a computer hack in Hollywood.

Sony plans to start packaging consoles for the China market from this month. Its venture with Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group Co. intends to package 200,000 consoles annually, according to a filing earlier this year on the website of the Shanghai free-trade zone.

The PS4 will be released with games including versions of Square Enix Holdings Co.’s Final Fantasy as well as other titles including Knack and Little Big Planet 3, subject to government approval of content. Microsoft released the Xbox One in September with just 10 titles from the hundreds released for the console because of government content restrictions.

Sony also announced some Chinese-produced games, including the fighting game King of Wushu that features characters doing battle in arenas with pagodas, temples and mountains in the background.

The company wants to introduce PS4 products from 18 Chinese developers and 23 international studios, the company said. Pre-orders for the console will start on Dec. 12, Sony said.

“We always say you need three things to do business in China,” said Hiroyuki Oda, deputy president of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Asia. “We think we truly have the right time, right place and right people.”

Sony has two ventures with Shanghai Oriental. The Japanese company holds a 70 percent stake in one entity that’s for hardware production and 49 percent in another for software sales and networks.

The expansion into China comes as Sony plans to boost cloud-based gaming by creating a mass-market streaming service similar to Netflix Inc. The PlayStation Network has more than 50 million active users, and its PlayStation Now service is available in North America for streaming content on Bravia TVs and other Sony devices.

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