By Takashi Amano
and Cliff Edwards
Nintendo’s prospects for meeting profit and sales forecasts in 2013 are diminishing after Sony and Microsoft each sold more game consoles in 24 hours than the Wii U maker did in nine months.
Nintendo’s family-focused content is losing its appeal as titles were delayed, casual gamers migrate to smartphones and tablets, and hardcore players opt for faster Sony and Microsoft machines.
The world’s biggest maker of video-game machines also has declined to offer games with its lineup of iconic characters such as Mario and Zelda on mobile devices, limiting its ability to profit from surging demand by online players.
President Satoru Iwata vowed in October he would meet a forecast for 100 billion yen ($974 million) in full-year operating profit and 9 million units in Wii U sales. Analysts are skeptical, with the average estimate for profit at 57 billion yen and for sales at 6.2 million units.
“They steadfastly refuse to consider that the product is not interesting to consumers,” said Michael Pachter, a Los Angeles-based analyst with Wedbush Securities Inc. “They will fail to hit 9 million, and they will likely miss their profit goals.”
Pachter forecasts sales of 6 million units.
The Japan-based home of Pokemon and Donkey Kong is counting on new versions of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda to bolster sales of the Wii U and portable 3DS during Christmas.
It already cut the suggested price of the Wii U by $50 to $299.99 in the U.S., ramped up television and online advertising, and introduced an entry-level 2DS portable player for $129.99.
The company sold just 460,000 Wii U machines in the six months ended Sept. 30, about 5 percent of its target for the fiscal year. Nintendo reported a net loss of 8 billion yen in the quarter ended Sept. 30, saying Wii U hardware “still has a negative impact on Nintendo’s profits.”
“Wii U has become a game console only for Nintendo fans,” said Eiji Maeda, an analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. in Tokyo. “Wii U needs groundbreaking software to draw casual and hardcore gamers.”
The company will sell 6.5 million Wii U machines this fiscal year, Maeda said.
Nintendo stock has gained 41 percent this year, trailing the 47 percent rise in the Japan Topix index.
Shares of Nintendo have lost 82 percent of their value since November 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The Wii U features a tablet-like, 6.2-inch touchscreen controller that lets players connect wirelessly to the console and shift the display between the device and a television. In the nine months from January through September, the company sold 850,000 — fewer than Sony and Microsoft did during the first day their new consoles were released.
Wii U software isn’t faring much better. Nintendo sold 6.3 million console games from April through September, meaning it has to sell almost 32 million more during the second half of the fiscal year to meet its annual forecast.
Microsoft said it sold more than 1 million Xbox One units during the first day the machine went on sale in 13 countries on Nov. 22.
Sony is trying to differentiate its PS4 by offering a wider selection of franchise and eclectic titles, including Octodad: Dadliest Catch by the independent studio Young Horses Inc. The company sold more than 1 million consoles within 24 hours of release on Nov. 15 in North America on its way to a global total of 2.1 million as of Dec. 1.