Shares of Nintendo were up 13% in mid-morning trading Thursday after Reuters reported the Nintendo Switch console has received permission to be sold in China.
The Department of Culture and Tourism in Guangdong province has given Chinese gaming giant Tencent permission to distribute a Nintendo Switch console with a test version of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. It will be the highest profile console title launch in that country in years.
Until recently, consoles were banned in China. The government reversed 15-year old restrictions in 2015, but hasn’t put a priority on approving games for sale in the country. (In the meantime, gamers have largely transitioned to PC games and smartphone titles.)
Mario is a franchise that is largely not available on those platforms, however. And it could be enough to lure Chinese players into buying both the hardware and software.
Tencent is headquartered in Guangdong and the approval of that province will allow the company to sell the console/game combo throughout the country. That opens up an enormous potential player base to Nintendo.
Market research firm Niko Partners estimates the number of gamers in China will hit 768 million by 2022, which is why so many game publishers are eager to crack the market.
“China is by far the world’s largest games market and the single most important market for both mobile and PC games, and it’s growing faster than expected,” said Lisa Cosmas Hanson, managing partner of Niko Partners, in a statement last year.