The Nintendo Switch caught the world by storm when it initially launched worldwide in March 2017, becoming a worthy competitor to current-gen consoles like Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. However, several markets remained untapped even now almost three years later, as the hybrid console is set to penetrate the world’s biggest gaming market outside the US; China.
Tencent and Nintendo have announced that the official Chinese variant of the Nintendo Switch will launch on 10 December 2019, for the price of 2,099 yuan (roughly US$297 or RM1240+). Pre-orders begin today on 4 December 2019 in China. They are also planning to introduce the Nintendo Switch Lite at some point in the future.
All of that may sound well and good, but there are several barriers that will stop the Nintendo Switch from dominating China like it did the rest of the world in the past few years.
Lack Of Games
You may scream, “Bullshit!”, to that subheading. Yes, the Nintendo Switch already boasts a strong library of both exclusive and multiplatform games that could go toe-to-toe with the best of the PS4’s library. Heck, who knows how many units of the Nintendo Switch have been sold thanks to The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and the various Pokemon games.
However, this is China we’re talking about, and that doesn’t apply. That’s because every single game that wants to enter China has to be vigorously tested and approved by the Government before it can be sold in the country. So far, the only Switch game approved for sale is New Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, with Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario Odyssey next on the line.
Those three games are great, but they’re not nearly enough to entice Chinese gamers to buy the official Nintendo Switch consoles. And that directly flows into my next point:
Chinese Gamers Who Want A Switch Already Owns One By Unofficial Means
Piracy is rampant in Asia, and perhaps especially so in China. Gamers in China who are interested in the Nintendo Switch must already have purchased one of their own through unofficial and ‘less than legal’ grey market shipments or opted to buy one overseas in other countries instead.
For example, the recent ChinaJoy event saw throngs of gamers visiting the Switch booth to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, most of which already have a Nintendo Switch of their own. They just wanted to see if the official Chinese version of the game would feature any changes or censorship.
The only pros of buying an official Nintendo Switch for Chinese gamers would be the ability to take advantage of Tencent’s cloud infrastructure for online gaming and buy eShop games with the cashless WeChat Pay. Tencent will also be working on the Simplified Chinese localization of Nintendo Switch titles, so there’s that.
That’s not even mentioning the fact that China’s gaming market is conquered by mobile, which will definitely be a huge obstacle in the Switch’s launch in the country. Nintendo isn’t even expecting a huge boom in sales from China in the near future, despite the official launch of the Switch.
According to The Verge, Nintendo president and CEO Shuntaro Furukawa said in an investors’ meeting last month:
“We have not factored the sales in China into our financial forecast for the current fiscal year,
and even if the launch does occur during the current fiscal year,
we do not expect a significant impact on this year’s business results.”