With a new Wii, new problems for Nintendo

Just in time for the utter madness of Black Friday, Nintendo has released an extraordinarily complex successor to its Wii, grandma’s favorite videogame console. The Wii, which made gaming accessible to every demographic through ease of play, is no joke. As of the end of September, it had sold 97 million units worldwide.

So what of this new machine? Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America’s swaggering president, has been hitting the road to promote the Wii U, a machine without the simplicity of the intuitive Wii. The Wii U is a kind of videogame console meets iPad. Its not easy to learn, and it’s a big gamble for the Japanese company. Replicating the Wii’s success is a nearly impossible task that even Mario with all his Power-Ups would find daunting.

A full year prior to the Wii’s release, Nintendo’s stock began to rise amid an elated, buzzy excitement in the press. The gauzy coverage said the Wii’s motion controls will yield a fascinating experience the whole family will love. By the time the Wii hit the shelves in November 2006, Nintendo’s stock price had more than doubled to over $28. A year later, at its high, it rocketed to nearly $77 a share. Not only did Nintendo make money on games, it made money on the Wii, which was cheap to produce. The Wii became a trend that doubled as a lifestyle choice. You could play Wii Sports with your family, and you could exercise with apps like Wii Fit.

In 2012 the world is quite different. A recession has hit the videogame industry, one that has led to numerous game studio closures. When people stopped buying the Wii in droves, Nintendo’s stock price retreated to pre-2006 levels. In the year leading up to the Wii U’s release, shares had fallen by almost 20 percent, from $18.66 to $15.52 last week, in part because Nintendo will lose money on each Wii U sold. (In the last day of trading before the Will U’s premiere, the stock passed $16. After a one-day bump, it declined again.)

This turn of events has severely stressed the business gurus at Nintendo. In 2011 at San Francisco’s Game Developers Conference, Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s president, railed against developers who make inexpensive mobile games for the iPhone and iPad. “Game development is drowning,” he warned, before laying into mobile game makers as if he were Tom Coughlin chiding the New York Giants after a disastrous loss.

EA: We love Wii U

Back in June, everyone was talking about the Wii U, Nintendo’s first video game console with high-definition graphics unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.

Since then, no one’s heard much more about Wii U, which has a tablet screen for a controller and can be used in conjunction with Wii remotes. Nintendo must be hunkering down to put the finishing touches on it before it hits stores sometime next year.

But Peter Moore, the video game industry veteran who was promoted to be Electronic Arts’ chief operating officer in August, told Reuters this week that everything appears to be on track with the Wii U, at least from his perspective working for a publisher making games for it.

E3: Strauss Zelnick dishes on Wii U, Zynga and why foie gras tastes better than chewing gum

Take-Two Interactive occupies a massive booth at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where it’s showing off its new games and serving beer at the elaborate sports bar it constructed on the show floor.  Under its CEO, Strauss Zelnick, Take-Two has been showing renewed financial health in recent quarters. In February, it posted its first profitable year in nearly a decade without a new release of its blockbuster video game franchise “Grand Theft Auto.”  Zelnick sat down with Reuters for an in depth chat touching on everything from Nintendo’s new console to Zynga’s business model, and the difference between foie gras and chewing gum.

Reuters: Are publishers on board more than ever before with Nintendo on the Wii U?

Zelnick: Well, It’s hard to know, right? At E3, there’s always a great deal of enthusiasm, as there should be. It remains to be seen what the releases schedules look like. We do think it’s pretty interesting. What they are doing with one display in your hands and the other display that’s wireless in front of you and the ability to have them work independently as well as together, creates a lot of interesting creative opportunities and that’s what we’re looking for. We’ll see how our creative teams feel but right now it looks pretty interesting.

Tech wrap: Nintendo debuts Wii U

Nintendo took the wraps off a high-definition version of its hit Wii, with a 6.2-inch touchscreen-equipped controller that the leading videogame hardware maker hopes will appeal to a more hardcore audience. Early reviews of the Wii U were mixed, with analysts saying the device stopped short of being game-changing. But some liked the innovation in the controller, a device slightly larger than Apple’s iPhone and whose touchscreen, video-call capability and extra functions may appeal to gamers who play longer and more intensely.

The new device will go on sale between April and December 2012, the company told reporters in LA without saying how much it would cost.

Data storage firm EMC offered to replace millions of potentially compromised “SecurID” electronic keys after hackers used data stolen from its RSA security division to break into Lockheed Martin’s network. RSA, which makes the SecurID keys, said in a letter published on its website that it had confirmed information taken from it in March was used in the attack on Lockheed Martin.