As those that follow Nintendo closely know only too well, major announcements and shocks aren't just reserved for E3 and the occasional Nintendo Direct. The company has a habit of dropping major news like it's a minor affair, and in the past couple of years has also reserved some notable news for quarterly investor briefings. As today's presentation by Satoru Iwata has demonstrated, however, when the heat from investors is eased the revelations dry up.
That's a positive, we should remember, even if our craving for more information and details continues unabated. In the past couple of years we've seen Nintendo tackle investor briefings in crisis mode, confessing to hideous losses and outlining strategies to ensure brighter days ahead. The tame presentation this time is partly a result of these policies working - despite dropping sales Nintendo is making a profit, and for shareholders that like to receive dividends that can sometimes be enough. We expect the Investor Q & A transcript to still pose tough questions around a dropping market share and the Wii U's toils in Japan - despite improvement in the West - but Nintendo isn't fire-fighting. The immediate reaction of the stock market after Iwata-san's presentation was essentially a shoulder-shrug, with a tiny increase in share value that amounted to "as you were, nothing to see here".
Aside from regurgitating some pleasing statistics on 3DS game sales, there were nevertheless some highlights and a couple of notable announcements. The main revelations were related to amiibo, which has proven to be a sales success for Nintendo while also leading to frustrations with stock problems. There was a reassurance that more stock will be considered for key figures - which we'll take or leave, as it's been said multiple times - but the vital detail was that Shigeru Miyamoto's previous musing on the potential for cheaper, easier-to-produce amiibo cards will be a reality this year. These may not be the ideal option for collectible romantics, but in terms of getting plenty of useful stock onto shelves they could be hugely valuable, not to mention useful for gamers that want amiibo functionality at a lower cost.
That seems like a smart, logical move, and we also have the interesting announcement of free software on Wii U that'll link Virtual Console experiences with amiibo. It sounds like a mix of NES Remix and the unlockable game demos we've come to know in Super Smash Bros. titles, and is certainly worth watching - it'll be another release that aims to entice more gamers to buy eShop content.
Aside from those amiibo details, the main narrative was on positive sales momentum - The New Nintendo 3DS out-sold the equivalent figures for the 3DS XL at launch in the West, there's a similar trend for Majora's Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and the Wii U is still behind its competitors but has sales moving in the right direction.
On that final point we're seeing more evidence of a lack of panic about the Wii U's fortunes. Fans and analysts seem to fret over its failure to keep pace with PS4 and Xbox One more than Nintendo itself; in fact, the big N is ultimately more bothered about maintaining profits despite supporting struggling hardware. The company's been here before, of course, with the GameCube toiling but then being followed by the runaway success of the Wii. That's not to say there isn't ambition to be more than an also-ran in the current home console space, but a reminder that the company also backs itself over the long-term. The success of amiibo and the ongoing role of the 3DS in the market has perhaps provided a reminder that the Nintendo brand still has power, even if the Wii U isn't tempting enough consumers to splash out a few hundred dollars.
We shouldn't mistake a lack of panic for sloppiness or arrogance, either - though this investor briefing was light on strategy, Iwata-san stated in his introduction that all of the plans and ideas cited throughout 2014 are still very much on the agenda.
While we will further our endeavors to increase our Nintendo 3DS and Wii U businesses in the next fiscal year, we intend to simultaneously challenge ourselves with new endeavors which include our plan to take advantage of smart devices, more aggressive use of Nintendo's character IP and our new QOL improvement platform business. I am limited in what I can discuss about these efforts now, and I do not think I can successfully convey a big and comprehensive picture of our projects just by sharing with you some fragmented information on these multiple challenges.
Nintendo has plenty of challenges to face - it wants to return to 'Nintendo-like' profits, establish a presence on smart devices, improve its foothold in the current generation (portable and home console) to keep its systems and games visible in stores, and it has a lot of plans to execute to boost gaming brands and launch its QoL (Quality of Life) range, starting with a sleep sensor. That's a lot for Satoru Iwata's in-tray.
So it's not all rosy in the garden. Today is a reminder, nevertheless, that Nintendo isn't unaccustomed to challenges, nor is it in the mood to panic. At the moment it's a case of Keep Calm and Carry On, which isn't a bad policy to follow.