Nintendo Co Ltd's shares plunged as much as 20 percent after the company swung to a quarterly loss and slashed its annual profit target, hit by anemic sales of its five-month-old 3D capable games device.
The stock plunge wiped as much as $5 billion off the Japanese videogame maker's market value and triggered a rash of broker downgrades after the firm said profits would fall to their lowest in 27 years.
Nintendo cut the price of its 3DS to a loss-making level in a desperate attempt to push up sales, less than half a year after launching the gadget that it hoped would replicate the success of the previous generation DS.
They are standing on the edge, said Yuuki Sakurai, CEO and president of Fukoku Capital Management in Tokyo. When I ride on the trains I see people using their smartphones to play games and people don't want to overlap their spending on other devices, he said.
The Kyoto-based company must consider providing games to these new platforms rather than focusing on new hardware, Sakurai added.
Nintendo also reduced sales forecasts for its Wii home games console and the previous generation DS handheld device.
The Wii faces harsh competition from Microsoft's Xbox, while many casual gamers are flocking to devices such as Apple's blockbuster iPhone and iPad, rather than dedicated games gadgets.
Nintendo's shares fell as much 20 percent to 11,100 yen, its lowest intraday level since May 2004 before recovering to trade down about 12 percent by 0530 GMT. The shares have plunged nearly 50 percent so far this year.
We needed to do something extremely daring to change the situation, so we decided on the price-cut, said President Satoru Iwata, a former game designer, who launched the Wii and expanded the gaming population, toppling Sony from the industry's top spot.
Speaking to reporters in Osaka on Thursday, Iwata acknowledging that sales of the much-anticipated 3DS had lost momentum shortly after the launch.
However, by cutting the price before you get economies of scale, of course you make losses on the hardware, he said.
Nintendo sold only 710,000 units of the 3DS in April-June, compared with 3.6 million in the month following its launch, and a tiny fraction of the 16 million unit target for the year to March 2012. The Wii sold only 1.56 million units, half the figure in the same period last year.
The company cut its annual operating profit forecast after market hours on Thursday to 35 billion yen from an initial forecast of 175 billion yen. The new estimate is far short of the previous consensus of 154.9 billion yen based on 24 analysts' forecasts ahead of the results.
JP Morgan cut its rating on the firm behind the Super Mario franchise to underweight from overweight, saying the current situation was worse than feared and the outlook uncertain.
The timing of the 3DS hardware price cut is surprising, given the major in-house software releases... We believe the 3DS will be a heavy weight on earnings over the medium term. The lack of a share buyback announcement is also disappointing, analyst Hiroshi Kamide said in a report.
Weak consumer spending in North America and Europe has hit Japanese electronics firms across the board.
U.S. consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the country's economic activity, is expected to have decelerated sharply in the second quarter of 2011 to the weakest level since the end of the 2007-09 recession two years ago.
Shares of Sony Corp also fell on Friday, a day after the Japanese consumer electronics firm slashed its outlook for TV sales and cut its full-year net profit forecast to 60 billion yen from 80 billion yen.
Brokerage CLSA cut its rating on Sony to underperform from outperform and lowered its target share price to 2,150 yen from 2,430 yen, saying the downgrade reflected the stronger headwinds from LCD panel and TV overcapacity as well as the strengthening yen.
Sony, the maker of Bravia TVs, slashed its annual forecast for LCD TVs to 22 million from 27 million and warned that annual losses in the division might widen from the previous year. ($1 = 77.800 Japanese Yen)
(Reporting by James Topham, Ayai Tomisawa, Mariko Katsumura and Tim Kelly; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Anshuman Daga)