Chinese gamers are underwhelmed by the Nintendo Switch Lite
The original Switch is getting an official release from Tencent, but the cheaper Switch might also be headed to China
Console gaming is gaining steam in China, which already has a huge PC gaming population. But judging by social media, they’re not that excited for the Nintendo Switch Lite.
While Western gamers seem excited about the upcoming Switch Lite, consumers in China appear more underwhelmed, believing the lower price doesn’t justify the compromises made in the console’s hardware.
The Switch Lite costs US$100 less than the original, but it comes at a cost: You can’t connect it to a TV, the controllers don’t detach, there’s no HD rumble or motion controls. And Chinese gamers seem disappointed, with comments online suggesting that those looking to jump into Nintendo’s gaming ecosystem would rather go with the original Switch.
To further differentiate the new console, Nintendo said the Switch Lite will be available this September in three different standard colors and a Pokémon special edition color in November.
But none of this seems to be enough to get Chinese fans on board with the idea. Not even the US$200 price tag.
Chinese consumers have generally considered console gaming a bit too pricey for their wallets, so why aren’t they over the moon about a cheaper Switch?
Some Chinese consumers believe that the real problem isn’t the price of the console itself but all the pricey games needed to make that console worthwhile. Chinese gamers consider Nintendo’s games to be notoriously expensive, and they rarely get discounts. So a cheaper Switch isn’t saving people that much money when they’re still shelling out US$60 for the latest Mario game.
“Many people are talking up the Switch Lite’s value-for-money. I don’t see it,” one person wrote on Zhihu. “The bulk of the cost for a Switch comes from games. Can getting a Lite really save you money?”
Many Chinese gamers are also down on the Switch Lite because they consider the original more of a home console to be played with friends.
“The Switch Lite doesn’t have a soul if it can’t be connected to a TV. I personally think that Nintendo Switch is fun only when I can play with friends,” one person commented on Weibo. “I have a Pro controller and I spend my weekends playing Overcooked 2 and Splatoon. I can’t see three people staring at the small screen to play.”
Some gamers are also concerned about the quality of the buttons on the Switch Lite.
“There’s always been problem with Switch’s controllers,” a person commented on Zhihu. “The joystick on the Lite is part of the device. What do I do if it’s broken?”
One online poll seems to support the cold reception. A poll from Chinese media IThome showed at the time of publication about 52% of 2,200 voters saying they wouldn’t buy the new Switch. Another 28% said they are reserving judgment until release -- but 20% said they would buy it.
Despite people seeming to say it wasn’t for them, at the same time, many think it will still sell well in China. A deal between Nintendo and Tencent to officially bring the Switch to China also won’t hurt, as it will expose more people to the console and its games. The Lite could also make its way to China as part of that deal.
Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad said the market research firm is predicting that both the original Switch and the Lite will be launched in China at the same time, coming after the Lite has launched in the rest of the world. The cheaper price could give Nintendo an edge in a market where its competitors Microsoft and Sony have been officially selling the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 for four years.
“A lower priced Switch Lite could do well in China where one of the biggest barriers to entry for the console market is the price of the hardware itself,” Ahmad said. “At US$199, Nintendo and Tencent may be able to undercut the price of its competitors in China.”
Even if the Switch Lite doesn’t get an official release, consoles have long been imported and sold in the country, even during the console ban. Scalpers online are already taking pre-orders for the Switch Lite on ecommerce sites like JD.com and Taobao.
Gray market sales have already helped the Switch get a following in China, according to Ahmad.
“The Switch has been more popular in China than previous consoles due to its unique form factor, lack of region lock and broad range of localized titles,” he said.
Even if it’s not seen as on par with other consoles, though, some hardcore gamers still see a place for the Switch Lite in China, considering it more of a successor to Nintendo’s handheld 3DS.
Whether gamers go for a cheaper Switch or not, console gaming could have some boom years coming up in China. Niko Partners predicts that, with an official release of the Switch, console hardware and software sales could rise by 11% in China this year and double in five years to US$1.5 billion.
The prediction also says that the Nintendo Switch could eventually account for about half of game console sales in the country.