It looks like the Nintendo Switch may finally be coming to China. Unlike elsewhere in the world, game consoles are far from mainstream in China. An entire generation grew up without playing the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3 or Microsoft Xbox 360 thanks to a long ban on console gaming that wasn’t lifted until four years ago.
Still, some Chinese gamers say they are excited about the Switch, as long as the release includes what they want to see, such as…
Pokémon: Let's Go
When Pokémon Go sent the world into a catch-‘em-all frenzy in 2016, China missed out on all the fun. The game still hasn’t arrived in the country, even though Niantic said last year it hadn’t given up. Perhaps that’s why people are hoping that Nintendo’s partnership with Tencent could help satisfy their Pokémon cravings.
In an awkward turn of events, Tencent recently released a smartphone game called Let’s Hunt Monsters that lets you throw a ball in AR mode to catch virtual creatures. It shares more than a few similarities with Pokémon Go.
For some, the more important thing is to be able to play the game without disruption.
“If the price is reasonable, and the network and quality assurance are better, I will definitely buy [the Nintendo Switch],” one person commented.
Even though the Nintendo Switch isn’t officially sold in China, fans have managed to buy it from Hong Kong and other places through scalpers. Last year, though, some gamers said they started having trouble playing Splatoon 2 and other titles online. There was speculation that it’s because Nintendo was using Google’s servers for its new subscription service, and Google is blocked in China.
Tencent isn’t always known for creating original blockbusters, but its NEXT Studios has launched a number of acclaimed titles on Steam, including Bladed Fury and Death Coming. Both games received a Highly Positive ratings among reviewers, some of them from China.
“I have to say, this game makes me feel better about Tencent,” one reviewer wrote about Death Coming. “Although this game still has a lot of shortcomings, the new update shows me how serious the production team is.”
Some gamers are wondering what’s the most absurd thing that could possibly come out of a Tencent-Nintendo collaboration. A photoshopped picture of a viral Tencent poker game, Huanle Dou Dizhu (or Happy Fighting the Landlord), running on a Switch received more than 6,000 likes on Weibo. Maybe the idea isn’t so far-fetched after all.
The Switch isn’t region locked outside of China, but many gamers already fear that tight censorship could mean they will no longer be able to play Switch games bought outside the country.
“I can still play anywhere in the world if I buy the Hong Kong, Japanese or American version. Buying the Chinese version means bearing the risks of a region lock and game alterations,” wrote one Weibo user.
“If there’s no region lock, I will buy it on release!” said another.
In China, though, every game needs approval from the government before launch. Theoretically, that means unless authorities greenlight every version of all Switch games, Nintendo would need to find a way to fence off unapproved titles from users in China.