This week brought some interesting and, perhaps, unexpected news. Nintendo's stock jumped a little over 7% on the Osaka Stock Exchange, a boost attributed to factors such as a weakening Yen being a benefit against trade in the U.S., while positive economic news from the big N's most valuable market also did no harm. It was a victory for accountants, ultimately, to see such a healthy increase without any business-related announcements to prompt it.
Even if this rise in the Japanese stock market could be accredited to external factors, they're still potentially surprising against a recent backdrop of lowered hardware and software sales projections, and Nintendo counting down the days ahead of major game releases it hopes will lift Wii U sales. Arguably only surprising, however, if viewed through a short-term and narrow viewpoint. While other Japanese corporations saw similar boosts in their value in a short space of time, it was Nintendo that made the headlines due to the scale of the jump; companies such as Sony and Namco Bandai also saw stock go up, but simply not to the same degree.
While not substantial or irrefutable proof of much, this story does give an opportunity to reflect on some key strengths that Nintendo boasts above competitors, both in the present and those of the future. If someone were to simply look at Nintendo's most recent business performance — the last quarterly results ultimately said "we're going to sell less of everything than we predicted three months ago" — you'd probably have very little interest in investing in the company. There are analysts who believe that Nintendo as a business is destined to exit the home console market and focus on software, with SEGA being the best-known example of that happening in the industry. Yet the bigger picture reinforces why Nintendo — despite its challenges and fight to maintain the market position earned by DS and Wii — should be regarded as a safer bet than some others.
For one thing, this jump in the Japanese market simply reiterates the relatively strong form the company's enjoying in its homeland and, despite being victim to the trends of a decreasing market, its continuing strength in the U.S. In terms of Japan, Wii U's wait for a jump start is being somewhat offset by the continuing dominance of 3DS, while Nintendo's still-substantial sales are made up of a little under 40% in the U.S. market. The scale of the stock's jump makes a pleasant change, particularly in mind of the non-existent bumps that followed E3 2011 and E3 2012, with shareholders often coming across as rarely happy with Nintendo's efforts at the LA extravaganza.
2013, to date, is perhaps best described as the "year of what's to come", even if that's not as snappy as "The Year of Luigi". The 3DS is continuing on its relatively merry way, with major releases coming through in the coming months — such as Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team and others — to accompany a continually expanding and healthy software library. With Wii U, it was enlightening — and exciting for Nintendo fans — that the recent Wii U Direct broadcast was able to build an online frenzy without, ultimately, showing very much. A number of games were announced, though relatively few were shown. Super Smash Bros. will "appear" at E3, while Mario Kart and the new 3D Mario will apparently be playable — we'd expect one of those to be released during the Holiday season. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD arrives this Fall, though there was no gameplay footage — footage as a whole was at a premium, with Yarn Yoshi being shown with a few screens, while Monolith Soft's "X" had a fair bit but no real release window. Many weren't licking their lips at lots of footage and imminent release dates, but in some cases at the mere prospect of what a 3D Mario et al will be like on Wii U.
And that, perhaps above all else, defines the strength that could serve as Nintendo's greatest Ace in the face of upcoming challenges. Its systems, such as Wii U, may often be casually dismissed — see any number of game site articles looking at the "next generation" that fail to mention Nintendo's system at all — but let's not forget that consumers don't always see it that way. Narrow-minded focus on graphics tech defining "generations" may have meant much debate on the merits of PS3 and Xbox 360 aside from the "little" or "kiddy" Wii, but Nintendo's system is still the highest selling of those three, worldwide. Nintendo's brand power may draw sarcastic yawns from some in the gaming community, but the mere presence of a new top-tier Mario or Zelda title, to name just two franchises, still carries weight with many gamers of all ages and types.
This current console generation, when it truly starts — Wii U/PS4/Xbox next — is likely to be a marathon rather than a sprint, and games will have a typically vital role. It's simply too early to write off Wii U, as we are yet to see how the public will respond the medium term releases such as Mario Kart or Smash Bros, while we can't imagine Nintendo failing to make a lot of noise over diverse upcoming exclusives such as Wii Fit U, Pikmin 3 and The Wonderful 101. It's debatable whether Wii Fit, for example, will hit the heights of its Wii predecessor — a trend for the console as a whole — but it adds to the variety starting to creep into the system's library; this will be helped further by the unrelentingly hardcore Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and the big-brand LEGO City Undercover this month.
And so while burying heads into sand isn't the way forward in terms of ignoring the very real troubles or challenges facing Nintendo, heart can be taken from the fact that the company seems more than eager to react and battle against its many competitors. So far in 2013 Nintendo's shown signs of a willingness — through its various Nintendo Direct broadcasts and announcements — to make the most of its talents and resources, showing that it's not stepping back and simply waiting for sales and success to come naturally.
That potential, combined with the company's history and powerful place within pop-culture, perhaps explain why it's still in the game as the only major video-game focused hardware developer — Sony and Microsoft, as corporations, have multiple fish to fry with gaming being a part of a whole, regardless of structures or "gaming divisions". The big N will never divert resources away from its gaming divisions, because that's all it is — as the well known saying says, "never underestimate Nintendo".