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Authorities flip switch for Tencent gamer move

Tencent has won a key approval to start selling the Nintendo Switch in China, paving the way for the console to enter the world’s largest video games market two years after it was first released worldwide.

Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong gave the green light yesterday to Tencent Holdings to distribute the Nintendo Switch console with a test version of the “New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe” game, a statement on the government’s website showed.

The need to navigate regulations and the search for a local partner have hampered Japanese gaming company Nintendo’s efforts to bring its hybrid home-portable Switch console to China, holding back the development of console gaming there.

“Launching the Nintendo Switch in China is a massive opportunity for both Nintendo and Tencent,” said Gu Tianyi, market analyst with gaming industry analytics firm Newzoo, adding that other consoles, PlayStation and Xbox, have struggled to catch on in China.

“What sets Nintendo apart, however, is that its intellectual property roster — including Mario, Zelda and Pokemon — is already extremely popular in the market. What’s more, the mobile aspect of the Switch is a great fit for China’s mobile-first culture.”

Tencent has to apply for approvals from authorities in Guangdong, where the company is registered. Two people familiar with the matter said the approval by the Guangdong culture ministry would allow the Switch to be sold nationwide. Tencent did not immediately comment.

It has teamed up with Nintendo in the past, with Tencent releasing its “Arena of Valor” game overseas on the Switch. A spokesman for Nintendo — which has sold more than 32 million Switch units globally since its launch just over two years ago — said Tencent had applied to Guangdong authorities for approval to sell the Switch console.

The statement on the website of the Guangdong Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism listed over 100 game devices, including arcade machines, that it was approving for sale.

The approval also comes as industry leader Tencent tries to recover from a lengthy video game approval freeze in China last year, which has put pressure on shares of the company and other gaming-related stocks.

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