Nintendo to try making movies

TOKYO • Can Mario save the day? Nintendo is planning to make movies using cash from the sale of its stake in the Mariners baseball team.

The game-maker's push into the film business should not be a surprise as character-driven movies such as the Avengers franchise are money-makers and Nintendo is struggling to keep up with changes in the gaming industry.

The company has yet to formulate a convincing strategy for mobile gaming and its nextgeneration gaming device, called NX, is not going to debut until March next year. Any movies that might feature Nintendo's popular characters from its Super Mario and Zelda franchises are probably two to three years from hitting big screens.

The Japanese game-maker said it is in talks with multiple partners and plans to take the lead on production, rather than licensing out content. The effort will be funded from Nintendo's sale of the bulk of its majority stake in the Seattle Mariners, which valued the team at US$1.4 billion (S$1.93 billion).

Mr Tatsumi Kimishima, Nintendo's president, detailed the company's plans in an interview with the Asahi newspaper published on Monday.


Popular character Super Mario could get another shot at big-screen stardom as game-maker Nintendo plans to make movies. PHOTO: NINTENDO

While Nintendo would work with partners, he emphasised that the Kyoto, Japan-based company would produce its own films instead of licensing characters.

A spokesman for the game-maker confirmed his comments.

Mr Tomoaki Kawasaki, an analyst at Iwai Cosmo Securities, said: "The desire to develop new sources of income from globally recognised characters, not just from games, but also from multiple areas, is understandable."

All of this is part of a bigger push by Nintendo to generate more money from its trove of popular characters. The movie announcement comes less than a month after the company issued forecasts for net income and revenue short of analysts' estimates on plunging sales of the Wii U console and 3DS handhelds.

Known for popularising video game consoles more than three decades ago, Nintendo is hedging against a future when it may no longer be able to rely on console sales. Young gamers are now putting aside their Wii controls and spending more time playing games on smartphones.

This would not be the first time Nintendo is putting Super Mario on the big screen. In 1993, Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo starred in a live-action flick called Super Mario Bros, which flopped.

Microsoft spent years trying to turn its Halo first-person shooter franchise into a blockbuster hit, with little to show for it.

Still, there are some signs of modest success in bringing the world of video games to movies. A 2001 science-fiction film based on Square Enix Holdings' Final Fantasy role-playing games attracted nerdy audiences.

The Angry Birds Movie, based on Rovio Entertainment's hugely popular smartphone game, debuted last week and was a hit among international audiences.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2016, with the headline 'Nintendo to try making movies'. Print Edition | Subscribe