Nintendo Co. (7974) President Satoru Iwata yesterday delivered his clearest message yet to gamers about the company’s future: Don’t count the Wii U out yet.
Nintendo, threatened with becoming an also-ran in the market for home consoles, announced a half-dozen new titles for the Wii U in an online presentation for the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. They include a multiplayer shooter game called Splatoon and Super Smash Bros. as it unveiled a toy platform for the console called Amiibo, similar to Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI)’s Skylanders. Nintendo shares fell.
The maker of Super Mario and Zelda has struggled to revive sales of the Wii U after missteps including delays in getting key titles to stores. The Mario Kart 8 racing title sold more than 1.2 million units globally during the last weekend of May, and Nintendo is counting on holiday releases to build momentum for a console many analysts expected the company to write off.
“To improve sales of the Wii U, Nintendo needs to produce hit titles,” said Hideki Yasuda at Tokyo-based Ace Research Institute. “It’s not clear whether new game titles developed by Nintendo will sell well or not.”
Nintendo fell 1.7 percent, the most in more than a month, to close at 11,690 yen in Tokyo trading. The shares have dropped 17 percent this year. The benchmark Topix index rose 0.8 percent today.
The company’s presentation video made humorous jabs at critical gamers mixed in with ninja-like battles between Iwata and Nintendo America President Reggie Fils-Aime. Nintendo said Super Smash Bros. will be in HD on the Wii U for the first time, and make its debut on the 3DS, both in time for the holiday season.
“Nintendo is all about invention and reinvention and bringing Nintendo magic to consumers,” said Fils-Aime in an interview. Nintendo, based in Kyoto, Japan, has no plans to end production of the Wii or cut prices, he said.
The company also is jumping into the multi-billion dollar collectible-toy category with Amiibo, figures that users place on the Wii U’s GamePad tablet to enter a Nintendo character into a game. There will be about 10 Amiibos for purchase with the Super Smash Bros. game, and more by year-end, Fils-Aime said. He declined to say what they will cost.
Nintendo previously called the Amiibos the Nintendo Figurine Platform for the Wii U. Similar to Activision’s Skylanders and Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s Infinity, the system combines video games with collectible figures.
Unlike the others, Nintendo’s real-world characters will work across multiple games and don’t require a portal to enable wireless communication between the game machine and toy.
Nintendo also showed Splatoon. The title, available next year, lets two teams of four take on roles as squids that can morph into people, shooting different colored ink to take over a battlefield in timed matches.
Early next year, Nintendo plans to release a new Zelda game, a title called Xenoblade Chronicles X and a Mario racing game that lets users make their own courses.
Iwata in January projected an annual loss for the year ended March and cut sales forecasts, though he’s said he won’t abandon Nintendo’s focus on both hardware and software. The company yesterday didn’t address his earlier comments about entering the health category with new products.
Nintendo is trying to convince retailers its consoles are viable and a good alternative to the similarly featured Xbox One from Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and PlayStation 4 from Sony Corp. (6758), Fils-Aime said.
The Wii U’s holiday sales could be the deciding factor for both retailers and third-party game developers.
“They have to perform this year,” said Yves Guillemot, chief executive officer of Ubisoft SA.
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