Sunday, February 09, 2014

Nintendo news round-up

Since my last post, I just kept collecting links to more and more news stories rather than being able to write a coherent article around them. So here is a rundown of what had happened in the world of console gaming in the past two weeks with some highly opinionated commentary at the end.

First, Nintendo president Iwata admitted to weak Wii U sales but refused to follow analyst advice to get out of the hardware business.

But how was Nintendo to move forward? Some reports noted they would soon be releasing mini-games on smartphones. After all, Nintendo could earn tons of money on mobile platforms, some analysts calculated. Other reports sprung up noting Nintendo would not be releasing mini-games on smartphones. It turns out that what Nintendo really has in mind for the future is a lot more cryptic than that.

The main theme: enhancing the quality of life through entertainment. The key word is health, Mr. Iwata says. Citing a flood of wearable devices already on the market, he says Nintendo is trying out something completely new: non-wearables to monitor your health. (...) For those of you wondering what “non-wearables” for health means, here’s the one clue he’s giving out for today: it’s not necessarily something you will use in the living room

Leaving strategy aside and concentrating on the numbers, there were some negative interpretations of the Wii U's recent sales figures (in German). In fact, there were lots and lots of negative interpretations. However, there were also some positive interpretations of holiday sales figures (in German).

Let us not forget that the Wii U still leads the pack of next-gen consoles by a decent margin.

Wii U: 5,86 million units (Source / as of Dec 31st 2013)

PS4: 4,2 million units (Source / as of Dec 28th 2013)

Xbox One: 3,9 million (Source / as of Dec 31st 2013)

The margin may be far too small considering that the console launched one year ahead of the competition. But it is still in the lead and, as such, the most sold next-gen console at this time.

In the end, Nintendo buying back plenty of its own stock seems to be an economically sound move in the current situation.

As if to save Ninty's grace in these troubled times, rumours of the company's next-next-gen plans surfaced. 'Nintendo Fusion' is supposed to be a project that, for the first time, would wholly integrate handheld and home consoles. And each would be packing quite a punch, according to the rumours which were later spread by another site.

This feels so much like 2005. And one thing is certain: Nintendo is working on their next-next-gen consoles. As soon as one console leaves the research and development labs, its successor hits the blueprints. Whether this is the case for Microsoft and Sony remains to be seen, though. All I can comment on regarding this specific rumour is that Nintendo did announce a much tighter integration of home console and handheld development. But let us briefly examine Sony's and Microsoft's fortune before summing up.

A few days ago, Sony's credit rating was reduced to junk status by the second rating agency. And soonafter, the corporation announced plans to sell its laptop business (including its 'Vaio' brand), spin off its TV business and sack 5.000 people.

Microsoft is not in an enviable position either. It is clear to everyone that the Xbox One did not have a hugely successful start. Already, there are rumours of a cheaper Xbox One in the pipeline and a recent $100 trade-in program for PS3. consoles suggests that Microsoft has signalled out the pricing issue as the culprit.

So what will happen? In a recent opinion piece for a German industry magazine, I noted that I was disappointed with Nintendo because of their uninspired offering so far. Because Nintendo should be able to win this generation hands-down. They won the last generation by a landslide and their new system is completely backwards-compatible (unlike those of its competitors).

Most importantly, though, Nintendo is swimming in money. According to analysts, the company has $4.4 billion in cash reserves. That might be enough to buy a third party publisher like Ubisoft or Capcom. So why have they not beefed up the Wii U to be at least on par with Xbox One and PS4? It is not as if those two are a huge leap from their respective predecessors. Or why have Nintendo not paid Rockstar to get GTA V generation-exclusive on Wii U? There are certainly missed opportunities here. But things are far from over for Nintendo.