Nintendo says no new Switch model this year

Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa at a briefing on the company’s financial results at a hotel in Tokyo last Friday.
Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa at a briefing on the company’s financial results at a hotel in Tokyo last Friday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Japanese gaming giant Nintendo said there would be no fresh model of its hot-selling Switch console this year, dashing the hopes of fans eager for a new version.

"We have no plans to launch a new Nintendo Switch model in 2020," Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa told a briefing in Tokyo last Friday.

Competition in the industry is expected to grow tougher this year as Sony prepares to launch its next-generation PlayStation 5 for the Christmas season and upcoming 5G mobile phones are expected to offer more sophisticated gaming.

But Mr Furukawa said the Switch's life cycles and customer bases were different from those of rival consoles.

"Other companies' business moves will not have a special impact on our business," he said.

The original Switch console, a hybrid that can be used for handheld play or hooked up to a screen at home, has become a huge global seller.

It is entering its fourth year, which Mr Furukawa described as the "early stage of its middle life." But its sales are still solid with powerful software titles.

In September last year, Nintendo also launched a scaled-back, cheaper version of the console, called Switch Lite, which is a strictly handheld device. Its sales have also been solid.

In December, the Kyoto-based firm behind Super Mario and Pokemon rolled out the flagship Switch model in China via Tencent to boost its global reach.

Mr Furukawa's comments came a day after the company upgraded its Switch sales forecast for the financial year ending next month to 19.5 million units, up from an earlier outlook of 18 million units. Many analysts see the new number as conservative.

Nintendo sold 17.7 million units in the nine months ended December last year, taking total Switch sales to more than 52 million units, with the launch of an Animal Crossing title late next month likely to boost sales.

Nintendo said its net profit for April to December rose 16.4 per cent from a year earlier to 196.4 billion yen (S$2.5 billion) on robust sales of hardware and software.

"Its earnings were not bad, but market expectations had been higher," said Mr Makoto Sengoku, a market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute.

The absence of a console launch would not hurt Nintendo much thanks to its hit software titles, he added.

"The new coronavirus is rather worrying," he added, noting it could disrupt Nintendo's shipments from Chinese factories. "Stocks related to inbound tourists have been falling, but now investors have realised Nintendo could also be affected."

Mobile games remain a small proportion of Nintendo's sales and are slow to come to the market, with little of the aggressive in-game monetisation often found in rivals' titles.

The mobile business is fulfilling the function of increasing user interaction with Nintendo's roster of characters, Mr Furukawa said, using language that left some investors concerned that it would be a greater priority than increasing sales.

"We do not know how Nintendo sees this business. Does it want to continue? There is zero visibility," wrote Jefferies analyst Atul Goyal of the mobile business in a note ahead of the briefing.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2020, with the headline 'Nintendo says no new Switch model this year'. Print Edition | Subscribe