Nintendo Drops Most Since April After Profit Misses Estimates

(Bloomberg) -- Nintendo Co. fell the most in nine months after it missed estimates for quarterly profit and forecast full-year earnings that were short of expectations, raising concern about demand for its Switch game console.

The shares fell as much as 4.7% in early trading in Tokyo on Friday, the biggest intraday drop since Apr. 26. A day earlier, Nintendo reported operating income of 168.7 billion yen ($1.5 billion) in the three months ended December, but that underwhelmed versus the 175.4 billion yen average projection.

The lackluster results may fuel worries about the Switch console’s longevity, especially in a year when Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. are preparing to launch new machines for the holidays. Nintendo released a lower-cost Switch Lite in the fall, reaching out to more mainstream users, and that console has sold 5.19 million units to date, the company reported.

“We expect the results to have a negative impact on the shares over the near term,” Hirotoshi Murakami, an analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co., wrote in a report. “We will be closely watching efforts that Nintendo makes to overhaul its mobile games business.”

Mobile game revenue rose about 11% from a year ago, totaling 36.9 billion yen in the nine months ended Dec. 31. Mario Kart Tour was a runaway hit on smartphone platforms: it was downloaded nearly 124 million times in its first month alone, comfortably eclipsing prior Nintendo mobile game debuts, Sensor Tower data showed.

Fire Emblem Heroes has emerged as Nintendo’s biggest mobile earner, grossing $656 million since its launch almost two years ago, according to Sensor Tower. Nintendo’s total earnings from mobile games topped $1 billion to date across six titles, the researcher said in a report.

Still, the company’s mobile business accounts for a tiny fraction of its earnings and it has fallen short of an earlier promise to launch two or three new titles per year. Nintendo has been criticized for being slow to roll out key features -- like the multiplayer functionality for Mario Kart Tour, which is still in beta -- Jefferies Group analyst Atul Goyal wrote in a report. The company has also offered little visibility for its future game pipeline, Goyal said.

Nintendo’s holiday lineup included two new entries in the Pokemon franchise -- Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield -- which sold a combined 16 million units since debut on Nov. 15. Ring Fit Adventure, an $80 exercise game that comes with a flexible plastic ring attachment for a motion-capture setup, sold over 2 million units since its release in October, Nintendo said.

“We expect investor interest to shift” to the company’s strategy for sustaining earnings growth in the fiscal year starting April, SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. analyst Eiji Maeda wrote in a report. “We focus on whether the firm announces strategies for further expanding Nintendo Switch sales, title lineups, and new smartphone game titles.”

Nintendo and its local partner Tencent Holdings Ltd. began selling the Switch in China on Dec. 10, a move that excited Nintendo investors hopeful of tapping a new market. The optimism has been tampered by the historically lackluster performance of Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox consoles, which haven’t had great success over several years of trying to crack the market where smartphones remain the dominant gaming platform.

The Switch maker also plans to launch a theme park attraction this summer at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. Super Nintendo World will feature a Power Up Band wearable that lets visitors collect coins and battle bosses while exploring a physical environment. Users will track their progress via a smartphone app, the theme park operator owned by NBCUniversal LLC said earlier this month.

Little is known about the attraction, which amounts to a mini theme park developed with Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto. Universal Studios hinted it will follow classic Nintendo game themes, revolving around a mission to recover a golden mushroom stolen by Bowser Jr., a perennial Mario antagonist. Super Nintendo World will also make it to the operator’s parks in Hollywood, Orlando and Singapore, though no dates have been announced yet.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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