Reports have surfaced suggesting that China is considering lifting its long-standing ban on videogame consoles.

The official China Daily newspaper quotes an unnamed source from the Ministry of Culture as saying ‘We are reviewing the policy and have conducted some surveys and held discussions with other ministries on the possibility of opening up the game console market. However, since the ban was issued by seven ministries more than a decade ago, we will need approval from all parties to lift it.’

As reported on Reuters today, the rumours have sent Nintendo and Sony shares soaring in Tokyo, with Sony shares trading at 8 percent higher and Nintendo gaining over 3.5 percent; each easily outperforming a broadly weaker Nikkei index. This following earlier rumours that Sony’s PlayStation 3 received a quality certification from a Chinese safety standards body, so theoretically paving the way for the console’s release.

However, an official identifying himself only as Bai and serving on the ministry’s cultural market department denied the report, telling Reuters that the ministry is ‘not considering’ lifting the ban.

Yoshiko Uchiyama, a spokeswoman for Sony Computer Entertainment, told Reuters that while she could not comment directly on the report, she could state that Sony ‘Acknowledge China as a promising market for our business, and are always considering and preparing business opportunities and possibilities (in the country)’.

Of course any relaxation of China’s stringent controls as applied to videogame consoles would mark an obvious and huge opportunity to console manufacturers and game publishers. Massively multiplayer online PC games such as World of Warcraft are already big business in the country, as are mobile games which Sony, Nintendo and even US publisher Microsoft would have to overcome to have any success in the country.