Last week Nintendo released its year-end financial forecasts and while we knew the numbers would look rough for the Wii U, it was worse than we were led to believe on all fronts. For the third year in a row the big N is reporting a major financial loss, this time at $336 million.
They had forecast the Wii U to sell 9 million units for the last fiscal year and it only sold 2.8 million. As for the more popular 3DS, it was expected to sell 18 million but only sold 13.5 million. Nintendo CEO and president Satoru Iwata apologized for the “failure” of the Wii U and said he would stay in his position until he could turn things around. As a result of the news the stock price plummeted 18% before bouncing back up slightly and it could get worse if Iwata’s words about the future hold true.
There are a few key titles headed to Nintendo platforms this year, including a new Mario Kart, the long-awaited Smash Bros. and a new Donkey Kong title, but these titles have to compete against a large number of high-buzz triple-A and indie titles coming to the PS4 and Xbox One by the end of the year (but not the Wii U). Nintendo’s king in the mobile console market and for a long time analysts and developers have suggested that it’s a no-brainer for Nintendo to expand its reach to include smartphone owners.
Something as simple as releasing NES/SNES/N64/GameCube console games and handheld titles from older Game Boy and DS generations for small prices could put the brand, characters and franchises in the eyes of millions of Android and iOS users and help built interest for the future but Nintendo is inexplicably reluctant to do so. Even as a result of the poor financials and investors hoping for a Sega-style level of change in tactics for Nintendo, Iwata made the following statement:
“The spread of smart devices does not spell the end of game consoles. It’s not that simple… It doesn’t mean that we should put Mario on smartphones.”
While there’s something to be said about Nintendo sticking to their guns, their reliance on age-old franchises, despite poor financials, reduces developer interest meaning few new IPs, lesser third-party support and less games overall. If less young gamers are interested in Nintendo properties now, how will Nintendo properties bank on player nostalgia in the future?
Taking into account how long it takes the big N to release new installments in their own top-selling and most popular brands, the Wii U’s future doesn’t look promising even if Iwata believes great software can move their hardware. Still, Nintendo is failing to capitalize on their mobile game development skills, innovative thinking and brand recognition by not expanding when they so easily can and it could spell doom for their future. The fear is that releasing Mario, Pokemon, Zelda, etc. on smartphones would hurt 3DS sales, but they don’t have to release the newest 3DS titles. Why not release older popular hits? Rockstar and Square Enix are doing it on the regular with older Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy titles, respectively.
The 3DS, even though it missed its mark by 25%, was still the top-selling console in 2013. Nintendo promises to surprise fans in the future (we hear this every year) and are reportedly investing more in R&D. Looking at their recent showcases at E3 and their disappointing and lackluster first-time appearance at the Spike VGX in December and it’s hard to get excited about his words.
Tell us your thoughts on theories on how Nintendo should attempt to profit from their brands! Should they start getting their popular older and mobile games on the larger smartphone market?
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