Officials in the Chinese province of Guangdong have given investment conglomerate Tencent permission to begin distributing Nintendo Switches containing a special “test version” of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, according to a report by Reuters.
At one point, video game consoles were banned in China, but that policy was reversed in 2015. After that, Sony and Xbox One began selling their latest consoles there through joint ventures with local companies, and Nintendo is now poised to do the same. Tencent had previously requested permission from officials in Guangdong, the province where the firm is registered. They received the approval today, according to a statement posted on the Guangdong Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism’s website that was translated by Reuters. Two unnamed sources familiar with the matter told the wire news service that this approval will allow Tencent to sell the Switch throughout the rest of the country as well.
A spokesperson for Nintendo confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that it was partnering with Tencent to distribute the Switch in China but did not say how soon it would become available. [Update - 6:31 p.m.]: “We will explain this matter further when we are at the stage where we can talk about it,” a spokesperson for Nintendo told Kotaku in an email.
The news comes after the end of a period in which approvals to sell new games in the country were halted following a bureaucratic shakeup last summer. That freeze was announced to have ended at the beginning of the year, but according to a report by the South China Morning Post in February, the backlog of requests that had built up during the interim was still causing massive delays.
That could be part of the reason that plans to sell the Switch in China are only beginning to move ahead just now, two years after the console first launched in March 2017. In an April 2018 Q&A with investors, then-President of Nintendo Tatsumi Kimishima said the company was looking to get the Switch to China but needed to find the right business partner first. We now know it’s chosen Tencent.
The largest video game company in the world by revenue, Tencent has spent recent years investing in several of the industry’s biggest players. It currently has a 40 percent stake in Epic Games, makers of Fortnite, and a minority stake in Bluehole, which developed PUBG. It also owns Supercell, makers of Clash of Clans, and Riot Games, makers of League of Legends. Now it’s responsible for bringing one of the hottest consoles currently on the emarket to the biggest audience in the world.
Tecncent did not immediately respond to a request by Kotaku for comment.