Nintendo Switch Coming to China Via Tencent, But Will It Sell in a Console-Hostile Market?

The administration of Guangdong province has given gaming company Tencent permission to distribute the Nintendo Switch console across China.

According to a report by Reuters, the initial wave of Switch consoles will contain a special "test version" of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe.

It's not clear when the Switch distribution will begin. Nintendo representatives told Kotaku via email, "We will explain this matter further when we are at the stage where we can talk about it."

Games other than New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe are on the way as well. Nintendo's game library is currently going through China's lengthy video game approval process.

This news is huge for Nintendo, as the country is currently the world's largest video game market, valued at $38 billion in 2018. Comparatively, the United States video game market was valued at $19 billion that same year. Nintendo's stocks rose 14 percent in response to the Tencent collaboration announcement.

Despite the size of China's gaming market, consoles rarely do well there. Chinese gamers tend to prefer playing games on either a PC or mobile device. This is in part due to a ban on video game consoles that China had enacted in 2000, believing consoles had an adverse effect on China's youth. The ban remained in place until 2015. Sony and Microsoft brought their consoles, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, over immediately, but sales were hampered by the strict censorship laws. China's government refused to let them sell popular games like Grand Theft Auto V and Call of Duty. Nintendo's family-friendly franchises may have more luck.

Nintendo previously sold gaming devices like the Nintendo 64 and 3DS XL in China by using the brand "iQue."

Tencent is a massive investment company, with funds in some of gaming's biggest names. They currently own 40 percent of Epic Games, the developers behind Fortnite and Gears of War. They fully own Riot games, the company behind League of Legends, and Supercell, the company behind Clash of Clans. The Nintendo deal caused Tencent stocks to rise 20 percent.