China is a controversial country. Despite being a huge market for imports, exports and manufacturing, the government retains an increasingly tight control on certain aspects of daily life. Allegations of massive censorship and control are widespread. A big part of this suspicion is based on the heavy restrictions placed on entertainment.
China previously banned the sales of game consoles years ago. This led to years of most Chinese gamers opting for mobile devices, PCs and other avenues. It took until 2015 for regulators to alleviate and eventually lift said ban on foreign-imports in 2015. Microsoft and Sony quickly took advantage of this, and released the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, respectively, in China for the first time (officially, at least) in years. Innovations within the country were also restricted by the need for foreign companies to directly partner with a Chinese company to distribute, market and maintain their products and services.
China is Booming
Despite the restrictions though, China has quickly grown to become one of the biggest gaming and entertainment markets in the world. In 2017, China’s online gaming market grew to 235.5 billion yuan (33.4 billion USD) from 67.1 billion yuan (9.5 billion USD) in 2012. And that’s just online gaming, and doesn’t account for all gaming expenses in the nation. And yes, that amount far outstrips growth in US markets for similar economic sectors. At least some of this growth though was due to illegal imports. Some companies, most notably iQue would import and then modify existing gaming consoles and other items, reselling them under their own brand. This would allow them to slip beneath the radar to a degree. But however one looks at it, China has had enormous potential for gaming growth since 2000.
And now, Nintendo wants a piece of the action. With more than 1 billion citizens there’s plenty of potential for growth. Although said growth has been slower for consoles compared to other platforms. And given the recent successes of the Switch it seems like the hybrid mobile experience it offers could help boost that growth a fair bit.
Nintendo will be partnering with Tencent for the release and distribution of their console. Tencent is one of biggest gaming companies in the world, forging relationships with multiple foreign game companies and other ventures. Tencent holds a controlling stake in many companies in gaming too. The firm holds a majority stake in Path of Exile developer Grinding Gear Games, as well as a recent plan with Ubisoft to port Rainbow Six: Siege to the Asian nation.
In terms of what choices Chinese consumers have, there’s a selection of launch titles that have been approved. Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee will all be on store shelves. A trial version of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe will be included in a special bundle.
The Nintendo Switch will officially release in China on December 10th. The console will be sold at 2,099 yuan, which would be just below $300.