Nintendo turns 125 years old this year, and the company, which began as a playing card business in Kyoto, Japan, is in somewhat of a tight spot. Though the brand saw moderate success with the launch of “Mario Kart 8” in May, Nintendo is deeply in the red and could really use some hits.
Can the Japan-based company be saved this holiday season? “Unless they couple a dramatic price drop on the Wii U with exciting content that uniquely leverages the device, we don't see significant turnaround for them this holiday,” Grant Johnson, CEO of consumer market research firm Interpret, said.
Things were looking up for Nintendo in May after the launch of racer “Mario Kart 8,” which became the third best-selling software for the month and helped move Wii U consoles from shelves. By June, the title had sold 2 million copies in less than 30 days. Still, Wii U revenue fell short of quarter sales goals and ended the fiscal year with a 3.8 percent drop in revenue and a $456 million operating loss. Sales are down 10 percent since 2013.
“They have been behind the curve technologically for a while, and while they're finally back it still feels like they're last generation. Not just graphically but on the level of the games they're making,” Ed Zitron, former gaming journalist and CEO of EZ-PR, told IBTimes.
In recent years, Nintendo has struggled to compete in gaming consoles. Since the launch of the Wii U in 2012, the Japan-based gaming brand has continued to see disappointing sales for the eighth-generation console, which launched on Nov. 18 in North America and Canada. The Wii U directly competes with Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One, but its sales continue to lag behind its gaming counterparts. The Xbox One and PS4 launched in Nov. 2013, with the PlayStation 4 reaching buyers one week earlier on Nov. 15.
This holiday season, Nintendo hopes its software line-up will be compelling enough to convince buyers to invest in the Wii U and some of its franchise-exclusive titles. “Super Smash Bros.” for the Wii U and 3DS, “Pokemon Omega Ruby,” “Pokemon Alpha Sapphire” and “Bayonetta 2” are a few of the games coming to the 3DS or Wii U by the fourth quarter of 2014 -- but will the games sell well enough to make up for the company’s overall loss of revenue?
The Wii U has been on sale for almost two years, but the device has only moved a disappointing 6.68 million consoles as of June 30 this year, with 36.67 million software units. In comparison, Sony’s PS4, which launched less than 12 months ago, has already sold 10 million consoles.
Nintendo’s handheld 3DS and 3DS XL has sold a combined 44.14 consoles and 171.49 units of software.
Here’s a quick preview of what we’ll see from the 125 year-old Japan-based toy company this holiday season:
“Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U” -- the fighting game will launch in early October for the 3DS in North America, Europe and Australia. The Wii U version has no release date yet, other than during the fourth quarter.
“Pokemon Omega Ruby” and “Alpha Sapphire” are remakes of the 2002 Game Boy Advance titles “Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire.” The games will be available for the 3DS and launch on Nov. 21 in Japan, North America and Australia, and on Nov. 28 in Europe.
“Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker” will launch sometime during the fourth quarter this year and will feature Nintendo mainstay Toad, who must safely traverse various levels to reach a star at the end of each. The game will be available on the Wii U in North America this year during the fourth quarter and in January 2015 in Europe and Australia. Eurogamer has already described the game as “the best Nintendo spin-off in years.”
In early 2015, Wii U owners will also have access to upcoming shooter “Splatoon” and “Yoshi’s Woolly World.” Nintendo also plans to release a new “Legend of Zelda” title at some point next year.