Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Nintendo’s game face

May 8, 2009

After a long spell in the gilded kingdom of record profits, Nintendo, the 120-year-old creator of Mario and Zelda, is again having to dodge barrels such as a high yen and consumers’ eternal quest for new kit. Its returns are slowing, though they are still to be envied with the firm forecasting $5 billion for the year ahead.

 

Last month company President Satoru Iwata told Tokyo journalists that Japan’s enthusiasm for its Wii was waning mildly. But he promised more software titles and said a new console would come when design wizard Shigeru Miyamoto ran out of ideas for the current hardware.

A few years ago around the debut of the Wii, Iwata, only the fourth leader in Nintendo’s history, said that by the time a product hits store shelves, the Kyoto-based firm is already deep in development of its next big thing.

So what is that large gorilla to come? Iwata’s not telling, but after substantially broadening the user base with more women and older game players and helping to untether gaming from merely a sedentary experience, a pot of gold is at stake if ennu-Wii is indeed setting in.

Nintendo, like many firms at the top of its game, doesn’t waste words on competitors (often not even acknowledging them as such). But Sony and Microsoft and plenty of unknown firms are deeply engaged in this multi-player scenario and have been gaining ground.

In the more than 30 years it has taken for gaming to become a passion for hundreds of millions and a multi-billion dollar business, calls on winners and losers have regularly proven premature or wrong.

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