People who want to play Ring Fit Adventure have found the game hard to buy as the coronavirus epidemic has sent demand surging and disrupted supplies. But in China, even the fakes are becoming harder to find.

The new Nintendo exercise game comes with a Ring-Con and Leg Strap. Players slot their controllers into the two accessories to track their movement across a range of activities in the game. It’s become a hit in China recently because it allows people to stay active while stuck at home during the outbreak.

Ring Fit Adventure has become a popular way for people to exercise while quarantined at home during the coronavirus epidemic. But first they have to find a copy. (Picture: Nintendo)

The game hasn’t officially launched in China, so scalpers have been selling Ring Fit Adventure at twice its original price of US$79.99. On two of the country’s biggest ecommerce sites, Taobao and JD.com, the game can be found on sale for more than 1,200 yuan (US$170).

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba, which operates Taobao.)

Pirated games are common in China. With hacked Nintendo Switch consoles available on Taobao, gamers can easily download a copy of Ring Fit Adventure -- but the game is useless without the Ring-Con and Leg Strap, neither of which Nintendo sells separately.

Counterfeit combos of Nintendo’s Ring-Con and Leg Strap have been selling in China since at least November, a month after the game launched. Sellers call the products “domestically produced” Ring-Cons on ecommerce sites and charge roughly 200 yuan (US$28.50) each. The uptick in demand has also meant those cheaper fakes are in short supply, while a more expensive version for 300 yuan (US$43) remains readily available.

The grips on the original Ring-Con are gray, while the fake one comes in red and blue. (Picture: Hawaii Duan)

Aolion is a store on both Taobao and JD.com that told us their stock of knockoff Ring Fit Adventure controllers are sold out. But the very reason the controllers are in demand is also why they’re so hard to find: With many factories still closed amid the Covid-19 outbreak, the shop hasn’t been able to restock. Aolion sold them for 219 yuan (US$31.30) and hopes to restock later this week.

Another Taobao vendor also said that it was expecting to receive new units today before being told to wait longer because of continued factory shutdowns. One seller on JD.com says on its knockoff Ring-Con product page that the controllers are in short supply, so orders placed before March will be shipped around March 7, and orders placed in March will have to be shipped after March 19. 

One of the producers of the unofficial Ring Fit Adventure controllers, Dobe Fomis Electronics, has factories in Shenzhen and Dongguan. The Shenzhen branch told us that it still hasn’t resumed production and isn’t sure when it’ll be able to do so. The branch in Dongguan said it resumed part of its production.

Still, unlike the original game, it’s not impossible to find knockoffs for a normal price, with some stores still showing a few units in stock. According to the numbers on Taobao, the more popular shops sold a few hundred units each in the last month. Only one shop sold more than 1,000 with 1,831 units sold.

The first-generation Ring-Con knockoffs go for about US$30… if you can find them. (Picture: Shengshi Games/Taobao)

And there’s also the more expensive version of the fake Ring-Con controller. Why the US$14 premium? It’s listed as a newer generation called the “domestically produced second generation” Ring-Cons, and it comes with grey grips like the original Ring-Con and is said to be of a higher quality.

It’s not clear how much the quality matters; we haven’t tried any of the knockoff Ring-Cons. But while reviews on ecommerce sites are overwhelmingly positive, not everyone is happy with their purchase.

One buyer in Guangxi province, who declined to give her name, told us that she bought a knockoff Ring-Con and Leg Strap for 277 yuan (US$39.60) on January 17. The controllers came with a storage bag and a yoga mat, she said. But after playing Ring Fit Adventure for more than an hour every day for about a month, she found the controller had lost sensitivity and wouldn’t revert from an oval shape back to the normal circle.

A user on Q&A site Zhihu also said last week that after purchasing a knockoff Ring-Con in December for 110 yuan (US$15.70) with a store’s VIP discount, the game keeps sensing the controller as being squeezed even while in its normal shape.

Both users said they were offered replacements by the shops. But they’ll have to wait: Both shops said the controllers are out of stock again.