China granted approval for Nintendo to sell its first Switch console game in the country. Nintendo hit New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe was approved by a government regulator on October 29, meaning that the Switch console will likely launch in the country in the near future.
“Nintendo is working through all the necessary processes as we look to put the Switch on sale in China,” a Nintendo spokesman told Reuters.
In April, Nintendo announced its partnership with Tencent as a means to gain access to the Chinese market. Before the partnership was established, intricate regulations and the search for a local partner hampered Nintendo’s efforts to bring the Switch console to China for many years.
Gaming consoles were banned in China from 2000 due to fears that gaming consoles had a negative effect on the mental and physical development of children. The ban was scrapped in 2015 but even then console sales were slow as China’s gaming industry is dominated by PC and mobile. Of the $37.9 billion industry revenue in 2018, only about $1 billion was attributed to console sales.
No official launch date of the Switch has been announced yet, and the last major news from both firms was released in August and detailed how Tencent will be localizing Nintendo’s games for the local market. With the Super Mario title now approved, that’s one less barrier preventing the two firms from launching the console.
Even with the ban lifted, console sales were slow, as consoles requires dedicated space in homes and did not have additional functionality, like personal computers. The hardware grey market also persisted, drawing away legitimate sales of consoles. It is expected that as more interest in legitimate sales of consoles increases in the future, the grey market will wane.