By Pei Li and Brenda Goh
BEIJING (Reuters) – China gave tech giant Tencent Holdings the green light on Thursday to publish Nintendo Switch games Super Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, taking the number of games licensed for the console in the world’s biggest game market to three.
The approval published by China’s National Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television on its website comes with game developers looking for ways to boost revenue as the COVID-19 pandemic forces more people to stay at home.
Tencent started selling the Switch gaming console in mainland China in December with only one game, New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe, which was approved by the authorities in October.
Last week, Tencent said it would extend the warranty for Nintendo Switches bought in China via official channels by six months in a bid to boost sales as coronavirus was hitting sales, logistics, promotions and user experience to varying degrees.
China had a decade-long ban on console games until 2014, when consumers could only access products such as Switch and Sony’s PlayStation via the gray market. Sony started selling PlayStation 4 consoles in China in 2015 but complained the country’s censorship rules were limiting its sales.
Game publishers operating in China need to have a license from content regulators so they can make money from the sale of virtual products in games such as weapons or avatars.
In 2018, a nine-month hiatus on Chinese game licence approvals crippled many industry players and wiped billions of dollars off companies valuations.
China lags other big markets such as Europe and the United States for game consoles.
Tencent, the world’s biggest game and social media company，gets most of its game revenue in China from hit mobile games such as Honor of Kings and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
(Reporting by Pei Li and Brenda Goh; Editing by David Clarke)