2013 was a rough year for Nintendo. Thanks to the popularity of the original Wii, the company spent years at the top of the console market. After the launch of the Wii U, things changed. Thanks to confusing messaging and a dearth of quality software at launch, the Wii U didn't perform as expected, and the big-N posted a $229 million loss for the 2013 fiscal year.
As a result, Nintendo stepped up their game. An influx of high quality and incredibly popular titles like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. Wii U moved significantly more Wii U consoles in 2014. Nintendo's line of interactive plastic figures, the Amiibo, also sold better than anticipated, and there are no signs that they'll slow down any time soon. Nintendo also experimented with licensing out its characters, which resulted in the well-received Hyrule Warriors, and a line of health-focused hardware that has nothing to do with video games.
So far, this has all worked. Wii U sales are much healthier than they were two years ago, and Nintendo actually turned a profit in the second business quarter of 2014. That's a step in the right direction, but President Satoru Iwata still isn't content. In an interview with The Nikkei, Iwata revealed that the company is taking a cue from the mobile market, and developing a line of low-cost games for the 3DS.
These games, Iwata says, will be based on both previous Nintendo titles and current smartphone hits. And since these games won't cost much to make, they won't cost much to buy, either. One of these budget titles should only set customers back a few hundred yen (for comparison's sake, 500 yen is a little over $4 US).
In addition to cheap, easy-to-produce games, Nintendo will follow the lead of titles like Pikmin 3 and Toad's Treasure Tracker and offer more free trials on its online service, giving gamers brief tastes of their popular games for no extra charge. That's not particularly innovative - video game demos have been around for decades - but in the past, the Nintendo has been hesitant to embrace free trials. Iwata's statements mark a significant shift in Nintendo's priorities.
Even with all this cheap and free software, don't expect Nintendo to slash prices on everything. Despite speculation that Nintendo could increase software revenue by selling cheaper consoles, Iwata's adamant that the current Wii U and 3DS prices will stay where they are. Cutting console prices isn't necessary, he says, and Iwata thinks that Nintendo will be back on track by March, 2017.
Whether that's true or not remains to be seen. Nintendo's clearly on the right track, and with highly anticipated games like Star Fox and The Legend of Zelda Wii U on the horizon, 2015 is poised to be another big year for the company. Will Nintendo ever return to the glory days, when it was pulling in a cool 100 billion yen ($845 million) per year? Maybe not, but for the first time in a while, Nintendo has a reason to be optimistic.
Source: Nikkei Asian Review