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iQue Ltd. (神游科技 Shényóu Kējì) is a Chinese video game company founded in 2002 as a joint venture between Nintendo and Chinese–American scientist and entrepreneur Wei Yen. It became a 100% Nintendo-owned subsidiary after Wei Yen left the company. It localizes and distributes Nintendo consoles and games for the mainland Chinese market, under the iQue brand.
iQue Ltd. was founded with a registered capital of $30m in December 2002 and established its headquarter in Suzhou, China in May 2003. Investment from both parties (Nintendo and Wei Yen) include capital, technology, patents, software copyright and other intellectual properties. According to some former employees, iQue stayed independent in its financial and marketing in the first few years, and was a cooperation partner of Nintendo instead of a subordinate agency. Prior to iQue, Nintendo had introduced the Game Boy Advance console to China via a Hong Kongese sales agent named Mani (万信), but faced several challenges such as the rampant piracy among Chinese game retailers and the government's ban on video game consoles, which led to the partnership with Wei Yen to solve these issues via localization. (Mani remaining as Nintendo's agent in Hong Kong and Taiwan uptill the DS era.)
On November 17, 2003, the highly-localized iQue Player (神游机), based on Nintendo 64 but with anti-piracy mechanism, was released. The iQue Player was unique that all the components were inside the controller and that it loaded games from a single, 64MB flash memory card with digital signatures instead of tradeable cartridges. Games for the console must be digitally purchased and written to the flash memory cards, at first through "iQue Depots" (神游加油站) – interactive kiosks in big cities where the player could bring their flash memory cards and iQue Tickets (神游票) to download, buy, store, retrieve games – and since October 2004 through an online service called iQue@Home (神游在线), which provided the same services to players at home via cilent software and the Internet. There were also multiplayer accessories (共游盒 and 共游机) for family gaming. According to Shigeru Miyamoto, the design has to do with the low income, undeveloped logistics, and rampant piracy in mainland China.
The iQue Player did not become a commercial success as expected, having only sold 8,000 to 12,000 units instead of the 1,000,000-unit goal Wei Yen claimed internally. Nor had the promise that "hundreds of games will be launched soon", printed on the back side of the packaging box, been fulfilled due to low speed of government approval (although the released titles had been praised for good localization). The "神游盒子" console, which was going to be a localized version of the Nintendo GameCube, was also canceled.
On June 8, 2004, the iQue Game Boy Advance (小神游) was released. Unlike the iQue Player, it had no regional lockout or anti-piracy mechanism, featuring interoperability with Nintendo's version of the Game Boy Advance. Four months later, the similar iQue GBA SP was released, followed by several new designs and official contests. The iQue GBA series sold well, reaching 200,000 units in 2005. At the same time, there were efforts to develop edutainment software, but failed.
On July 23, 2005, the iQue DS was released. It can load iQue DS, Nintendo DS as well as GBA games, but iQue DS games could not be played on the Nintendo DS, which was otherwise region free. The deluxe version sold via large markets had Polarium and WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$!. The iQue DS Lite released in the June of 2006 followed by supporting 烧录卡, and the DS series sold well, reaching 300,000+ units.
At the same time, iQue had been slow in game localization due to policy, piracy, and internal issues.
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