Nintendo unveils the Switch for tough Chinese market

  • Business
  • Thursday, 05 Dec 2019

Hong Kong: Tencent Holdings Ltd and Nintendo Co have announced plans to begin selling the Switch console in China next Tuesday, a long-anticipated entry into the world’s biggest gaming arena.

Nintendo’s signature device will sell for 2,099 yuan (US$297), about the same as elsewhere around the world.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Mario Odyssey will join the already-greenlit Super Mario Bros U Deluxe among the first crop of Switch titles in coming weeks.

Nintendo is also preparing to introduce the Switch Lite -- a cheaper version of the console intended to boost the device’s mainstream appeal – to China at a future date, development partner Tencent in a social media post.

But for all the name recognition, marketing muscle and fan base behind it, Nintendo’s Switch is unlikely to get off to a fast start in the world’s largest gaming market.

The Switch’s impending release in China has excited Nintendo investors hopeful of tapping a new market. Yet it’s constrained by the rise of smartphones as the dominant gaming platform in China, and by the reluctance of gamers to buy consoles via official channels because of their limited range of Beijing-approved games.

Nintendo’s Switch retains its global popularity three years after launch, but growth will slow in coming years in an industry where consoles are often revamped every half-decade or so. Getting into China could extend its longevity, but Nintendo’s first issue is that fans in China who might have wanted and could afford a Switch are likely to have one by now.

“Many Chinese people buy Switch in Japan and come back to their home country with it, ” said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute in Tokyo. “Chinese people know Mario, Zelda and Pokemon through the media, and the more income they get, the more they want to buy Switch and software.”

At the packed Switch booth in August during ChinaJoy, fans waited as long as two hours to try marquee titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Many in line brought their own Switch – whether acquired overseas or on the gray market – and just wanted to check whether the Chinese versions of their favorite games would be any different due to censorship. — Bloomberg

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