Buying a Playstation 3 in Chengdu

Like many people reading this, I grew up playing video games. In the U.S., video game cultured was being assimilated into the mainstream throughout the 1990’s as Notorious B.I.G. sang in the first single of his debut album: “Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, when I was dead broke, man I couldn’t picture this”. Since then, the video game industry has grown to take an ever-larger place in the overall entertainment industry. Along with virtually every other luxury industry, it’s currently in the midst of explosive growth in China. And with many video game shops fiercely competing for your yuan, prices and profit margins are lower than vendors would like. Bad for them, good for you.

So, after a year of faithful service, I’ve sold my Xbox 360 (in the Chengdu forum) and picked up a Playstation 3. Here’s all the information you’ll need to be gaming on the cheap in Chengdu, in high definition.

Playstation 3 bought in Chengdu
Playstation 3 (320gb model) bought in Chengdu for 2,600 yuan with Blu-Ray movies

Practical Information

If you weren’t aware, the Playstation 3 is the successor to the Playstation 2, the highest selling game console ever made. In addition to playing games like Final Fantasy and God of War, it also plays Blu-Ray movies in high definition.

Since I authored a post on Buying Video Games in China for $1 over a year ago, there’s been a major change to the industry. The Playstation 3, which previously could only play legitimate discs (which are actually imported illegally, along with consoles themselves), has been cracked wide open and will now run games installed directly to its internal hard drive. Prices and information on where to buy are at the end of the post, but expect to pay about 2,500 yuan (U.S. $300+) for a Playstation 3 which comes with as many games as you can fit on the included hard drive (120-320gb) and will play any Blu-Ray movies.

Firmware Hacks & Installing Games

The modification that allows the Playstation to run games installed to the hard drive is a firmware hack. That means that unlike the Playstation 2 hack, this is software-only and completely reversible. When you buy the console, it comes with the modified firmware installed, for no additional fee, and as many games as you can fit on the included hard drive. I got the 320gb model and was able to fit 17 games on the hard drive, including Final Fantasy XIII and God of War III which together alone are over 80gb (Blu-Ray games are enormous and jam-packed with super high-resolution video).

To install other games in the future, you have two options:

  1. Take your PS3 to Digital Square to have new games installed, for a fee of 20 yuan for as many as you want, or
  2. Take the removable hard drive out of your console and take that with you to Digital Square

While this is a hassle compared to the Xbox 360 which allows you to just buy discs for 5 yuan and run them like legit games, you have some advantages with the PS3 like Blu-Ray movie playback. When you have everything set up, this is what the game selection menu looks like:

PS3 game selection
Selecting from the available games on a PS3 via a built-in menu

Getting on the Playstation Network

If you’ve modified your PS3 to play games from the hard drive, you can still play games online, but you’re running the risk of getting the console permanently banned from the Playstation Network. No one’s certain how Sony will handle this, but a popular theory is that Sony is collecting information on consoles that login to the network with modified firmware. Once they’ve reached a certain time or number of consoles, they permanently ban them all from the network forever. This is exactly how the Xbox 360 works with “ban waves” occurring once each year. Whether or not you choose to take the risk is up to you, but I’ve chosen to keep my PS3 offline for now.

Buy and Watch Blu-Ray Movies

Salt Blu-Ray
"Real Blu-Ray" (????) sticker affixed on Salt

If you buy DVD’s regularly, you’ll notice that Blu-Ray movies are starting to pop up everywhere that DVD’s are sold. Now, instead of just shouting “DVD!” at Digital Square, you’ll also get “Blu-Ray!” (??) shouted in your face by vendors who equate foreigners to yuan signs. There are thousands of movies available on Blu-Ray so the selection is extensive, and the going rate is 15 yuan per disc, including box. For this price, these are obviously not studio-approved Blu-Ray discs, which aren’t for sale in Mainland China legally anyway, but they are bit-for-bit identical counterparts. I recently noticed a “Real!” sticker on Salt, which I picked up recently. I remain unconvinced, but it’s amusing.

One other thing to add is that China is starting to crack down on popular bit-torrent sites which host foreign films. Verycd.com, which is essentially China’s Pirate Bay, has recently stopped hosting foreign films and music. Around the world, Netflix streams movies on-demand for a monthly subscription fee to users in the US and Canada, but of course these don’t work here with our paltry broadband connections and regional blocks. In light of these facts, and the general hassle associated with downloading high resolution movies, Blu-Ray starts to look very attractive.

The Legality of Hacking Your PS3

As of this writing, console modification is legal. Sony is about to put this to the test though, by throwing an army of lawyers at the first guy to crack the Playstation’s complex encryption protocols: Geohot, who’s also the young genius who first jailbroke the iPhone. As of several days ago, Geohot is requesting financial support to save himself from getting sued into oblivion by one of the world’s largest media conglomerates. And more importantly, prevent Sony from setting a legal precedent which prevents you from the right to modify hardware which you own. You can read more about that here.

Where to Buy

Digital Square, at the intersection of First Ring Road and Renmin Nan Lu in the South of Chengdu. The fourth floor of both adjacent buildings are devoted to video games and various and sundry PC accessories.

Have you bought a PS3 or are you thinking about getting one? Leave a message in the comments below.

32 thoughts on “Buying a Playstation 3 in Chengdu”

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  2. I’ve always been a Nintendo guy, and so scooped up the Wii when it came out mostly because of brand loyalty and the glut of 5rmb games (alright, more the latter than the former).

    In the years since I’ve regretted it more than a few times, as the Wii sort of sucks. While novel for the first hour or two of game play, and hellah fun at a party, the fact that you have to swing the damn controller to do stuff becomes a complete PITA. My dad and my good friend both have PS3s and I’ve been envious for quite a while.

    Might just be time I go pick one up — the Blueray player certainly doesn’t hurt either now that Bluerays are easier to get at the DVD shops.

    Now, how to convince the wife to approve such a purchase — that’s a whole other blog post! 😉

    • I hear you Ryan, my favorite console of all time is the SNES. I have a lot of love for Nintendo, but yeah, most of the games are too casual for me to really get into although they’re fantastic for certain situations.

      For gaming, the PS3 is virtually identical to the 360 although I’d give the nod to the 360 in China since it’s so easy to buy discs and be playing them immediately. Having to install games to the hard drive (and then “install” them again, at the insistance of the PS3!) is more of a hassle.

      Blu-Ray is an enormous advantage though if you have an HDTV. I used to download movies and find Chinese subtitles on sites like Shooter.cn. What a pain in the ass that is. Chengdu is teeming with Blu-Ray discs for sale (yesterday I was at a place with over a thousand different movies) and they’re all in HD, all have Chinese subs, etc. The convenience is paramount. I’d say that’s you best shot at convincing your wife.

      Good luck!

  3. After bringing back a Witopia Cloakbox (i.e., VPN in a wifi router) from the States I can reliably stream Netflix on my PS3 with just a 2M China Telecom DSL connection…reliably that is unless its ChunJie and everyone is home using their Internet.

    With a PC and when not on a VPN, you can watch tons of shows and movies on pptv.com

    • Wow, that is an elite setup.

      I had always wondered if there was a cheaper way to create a setup like that by myself, but $200 doesn’t seem unreasonable considering the ease of use with a device like that. Right now I have VPN’s installed or configured on pretty much every computer in my house, but it’d be much more convenient to have the redirection working at a lower level on the network.

      When you say streaming Netflix I assume you mean in HD?

      • The CloakBox makes it easy to check FB from my iTouch w/ wifi. I don’t think HD streaming is possible w/ my DSL. Maybe yours could. If you do end up getting a Cloakbox, use their UDP servers rather than TCP; TCP is too slow for Netflix streaming.

        In my setup, I have a Apple Airport Extreme connected to DSL. That gives me a normal connection to the Internet when I want to access Chinese websites like TaoBao. Then the CloakBox is connected to the Airport Extreme. The CloakBox wifi gives me VPN encrypted access. Makes it really easy to switch between the two hotspots to toggle VPN on and off.

        There’s probably a way to hack your own VPN wifi router using dd-wrt.com firmware, which is what Witopia uses for CloakBox. dd-wrt is compatible with a bunch of routers.

        • So, two different wi-fi connections depending on what you want to use, correct? Makes sense!

          I currently have Tomato installed on my router, but I know that DD-WRT has some additional features. I’ll look at changing the firmware and getting the VPN working through the router.

      • You can make your own “cloakbox” for $25 and use your existing VPN. Just buy a router that supports custom linux firmware like dd-wrt or tomato off taobao. Connect it to your VPN service and set it to redial when the connection is dropped. Then just set your PS3 or whatever to use it as a gateway.

        Does the PS3 support setting a web proxy? You could easily run freedur on a macbook. Then use ipfw, the firewall built in to osx, to redirect the internal freedur proxy port to an external port. This is a very simple solution as it only takes 1 terminal command.

        • I’d rather not go through the hassle of having to use my laptop as an intermediary point for the PS3 but thanks for the 1337 tip.

          I’m still using the same router you suggested I get years ago (WRT-54G) and I’m sure it supports DD-WRT so I’ll look into installing that.

          Now to figure out how to stream Netflix on the PS3 and test it out in HD! Thanks for the tips Ben.

          • You need to use a separate router. Using the same router as you default gateway for your ADSL and for your VPN would be an extremely complex configuration.

  4. What you have to know before buying a used PS3 console…
    In the last few months people have been paying way over the odds for their used PS3 console. Stores online and offline have been marking up the prices and customers have been paying over the odds for a used PS3.

  5. Looks like you have a nice game selection Charlie, I’m predicting a decline in posts as a result of your purchase 😉 Recently FFXII for PS2 has been my guilty pleasure in between studying for the GRE, working on political articles for infoshop.org or construing characters for what will someday become a novel. ( a very, very slow process)

    While we are on the subject of geekdom and Final fantasy, I gotta say that FFXII’s storyline leaves much to be desired, and that is putting it politely. I hear FFXII has great gameplay and is graphically stunning, but it too is a bit in lame in the plot department.

    That being said, SNES is my favorite console as well, Squaresoft really set the bar high with Final Fantasy III (VI elsewhere) and Chrono Trigger. Sadly I had to part with my SNES console and aforementioned games before my last trip to China. Ebay prices are still pretty competitive for rare RPGS and consoles. However, the funds didn’t go too far when I was working for the Expo in Shanghai.

    One step at a time. This month I’m finally going to upgrade my powerbook g4 to a circa 2008 macbook pro, really can’t stand the chiclet style keyboards on the new models!

    • Tell you the truth, I’ve spent much more time watching movies so far than I have playing games on the PS3. The only games I’ve played are God of War, Grand Turismo 5, and Marvel vs Capcom 3 pretty much. Blu-Rays I’ve already seen though: Salt, Gladiator, The Wrestler, The Big Lebowski, Battle Royale, and Navy Seals (been hearing about Charlie Sheen way too much recently).

      I played FF XII on PS2 back in the day, I liked it. That’s the only Final Fantasy game in the last ten years that held my interest enough for me to finish it. I will admit that it’s a very political storyline though. Kind of reminded me of the Star Wars prequels. It was better than those though, and I liked the auto fighting system. I agree with you that the best in the series are the SNES ones. Classic.

      Congrats on your laptop upgrade. Sounds like it was about time – G4’s are old!

    • Also one more thing to add: I played Final Fantasy XIII on PS3 for a few hours. So far the protagonist is a female, so that’s interesting. Overall though it feels very much more “on rails” than previous FF games. The graphics are incredible though. I didn’t expect the PS3 to have superior graphics to the 360 but I have been noticing that.

  6. I already have a ps3 in the states, should i bring mines or buy one over there?

    Since i cant get new games in the US, it might be best to get a ‘mod’ one, no?

  7. Hi all!:

    I’m just arrived to Chengdu and be here until Oct. 28th.

    Only a few hours before I found this great site, and couldn’t stop reading all the useful and interesting information that you show here… awesome!

    Here are my questions: I want to get a PS3 for my 13 y.o. son. Is Digital Square still the best place to buy it? Any idea of actual prices? (I guess that since this post, prices probably were going down…).

    I also look for cheap 3G cell phones, and a Nikon DSLR camera and lenses (an 80-200mm f/2.8 would be great!).

    Nice to be in touch with you.
    Best regards,
    Jano

    • Hi! Thanks for visiting.

      Digital Square is the best place to buy a PS3, no question.

      Phones are in a different market in Chengdu, called Taisheng Nanlu.

      Take care.

  8. Quick question to the author, are all of your games in english? I went there yesterday and couldnt find which vender had english games. Prices are the same of course, 2400-2500 yuan.

  9. I’m shifting to chengdu and I already have a PS3 , so can I get games installed in that or
    do I have to buy a new one ?

  10. I bought Call of duty Black Ops 2 yesterday at the digital square for PC, but it seems to be a pirate copy as i cannot get onto steam for MP. Also i have noticed that there are SKIDROW files located on the disk. Is this legal?

    The game works but i cannot play online which sucks. Games there are dirt cheap and the new PS3 price is 1600 yuan. For the 250Gb. Think i might go that way if of course i can play online, any advice on this??

    • That is not a legit copy, that will definitely not work on Steam. I’m guessing it cost you something like 20 yuan?

      I think you can play online with a modded PS3, but it will want to update the firmware on the console which will prevent you from running copied games. So you have a choice: play as many games as you want for super cheap, or play games online at around 150-300 yuan per game.

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