Nintendo Suggests A Single Major Title Could Revitalize Wii U, 3DS
A translation of the question-and-answer section of Nintendo’s investor meeting has been made available. While much of it doesn’t reveal new information, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata did discuss what he hopes will happen, invoking company history.
When the Gameboy reached the latter part of its life cycle, interest began to wane (as is common). However, the system defied the normal product curve because of the enormous success of a single title.
Pokémon Red and Green were released in 1996 in Japan. Red and Blue arrived in the West first in late 1998 in North America and Australia, before completing distribution in Europe in early 1999.
The original Game Boy entered he market in 1989, with the final shipment leaving the factory in 2003. “Following the generally accepted theory on platform lifecycles, it is natural for you to presume that the sales of Nintendo 3DS will drop X percent each year or we cannot expect a huge increase in Wii U sales,” Iwata says. “On another front, we have witnessed one single software title completely change the entire picture of our business many times. I believe one of the most impressive stories was the time when people thought the Game Boy platform was virtually over. However, a software title called "Pokémon" turned things around for the platform and ended up creating the biggest annual sales for Game Boy in the latter half of the platform’s eventual lifecycle.”
While Iwata doesn’t suggest which title in the upcoming lineup might be the savior for one or both of these systems, he remains confident. “We do not believe that the situation so far means that there will not be a bright future,” he continues. “However, we should learn from our experiences of not being able to perfectly respond to certain social changes such as changes in the way consumers collect and receive information.”
To this point, Iwata reiterates that the company will be changing the way it approaches smart devices. Nintendo is also considering new ways to use its intellectual property and characters (as the company has previously stated). Still, Iwata carefully points out that this does not mean flocking to mobile as a way to quickly capture revenue.
Unfortunately, Iwata is also conservative about the coming year and what investors should expect in terms of financial performance. He also suggests that products won’t be changing course, but the company’s communications with customers will.
“Our goal of the fiscal year ending March 2017 will be to make the video game business robust,” Iwata says. “If our software were not receiving high evaluations from both professional reviewers and consumers, our ability to create marketable products and services itself must be questioned. However, since this is not the case, and our products are receiving high scores but are still not selling as expected, there is much to be done in the way we incorporate aspects into our products that sell themselves, and in the way we communicate with consumers to promote and sell our products.”
As for Nintendo’s Quality of Life product, we shouldn’t expect to see them at market for a while. Nintendo says that it anticipates those yet to be detailed products won’t contribute to profits until the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2017.
There have been a number of financial flukes that have yielded big, unexpected rewards in the industry. Majesco was saved from threat of NASDAQ delisting by Cooking Mama and Zumba on two separate occasions. Pokémon extended the Game Boy’s life by years and served as a springboard into the future. Big wins can change a company's fortune entirely.
I don’t think it’s impossible for Nintendo to see a title like that revitalize the Wii U or 3DS, but it’s improbable. The Legend of Zelda will help sell more Wii U consoles, but it isn’t the revolutionary game that will change minds for those that have already written the console off. It also won’t bring third parties back to the table. As for the 3DS, there’s more potential (especially if paired with the New 3DS), but I still haven’t seen anything on the horizon that might generate that worldwide appeal.