Sony Considering Purchase of Factory That Manufactured Wii U eDRAM
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Not really a DRAMa
Occasionally we post news articles not necessarily to reveal anything thrilling, but to try and steady uncertainty making its way around the web that, potentially, isn't quite based on solid ground. When dealing with issues of manufacturing embedded DRAM for Wii U consoles in Japan, figuring out the realities of a situation is unsurprisingly tricky.
In any case, there are reports that Sony is in talks with Renesas Electronics Corp over a potential purchase of the company's Tsuruoka factory; this is to ramp up production of Sony's CMOS technology, a smartphone camera sensor that's a major earner for the company. As Bloomberg reports, Sony's exploring the option of purchasing this plant alongside the alternative of building its own new facilities elsewhere; at this stage they're only initial discussions.
Why's this relevant for Nintendo? It is and it likely isn't. You may have seen reports and comments around the web that the Wii U's embedded DRAM component is manufactured at the factory in question, but it seems that Nintendo's previously shifted production of the component to another major manufacturing company called TMSC. Frankly, the source for this points to Nikkei's home page, but links and online conversations from that time (August 2013) suggest it happened.
Solid, reliable news on this is hard to come by for a simple reason; this is everyday manufacturing business. Plants close, re-prioritise or otherwise, and companies such as Nintendo always look for efficiency savings and the best manufacturing opportunities to cut costs — just observe how the 3DS (even after its heavy price cut in 2011) went from a manufacturing loss to profitability in the second half of 2012.
So there are two scenarios that we can see: Nintendo's eDRAM manufacturing has indeed switched to TSMC and this potential Sony purchase has little to no relevance, or in the event of the potential purchase impacting manufacturing, Nintendo will move elsewhere or strike a deal with Sony; it's likely got a good stockpile of the part in question, too. The latter (deal with Sony or change) seems unlikely in light of the TSMC angle, but it should also be acknowledged that major companies work together and contract each other regularly; they may compete with products, but the nitty-gritting of manufacturing sees corporate behemoths often sharing contracts with each other.
Bearing all of that in mind, and the fact that Renesas initially began to discuss closure and selling the facility back in August, it's highly unlikely this will be an issue for Wii U manufacturing. It's notable that not one of the Japanese industry sources reporting on this potential Sony acquisition (that we were able to translate) mention Nintendo in any way, reinforcing that this is a standard part of manufacturing business.
Unless we hear otherwise with compelling evidence, we'd suggest that reports on this matter shouldn't overly concern Nintendo fans.