This week will bring Nintendo's Q3 financial results, a presentation briefing from company President Tatsumi Kimishima and a Q & A with investors. Now, that may not be very exciting on paper, but this particular set of results comes at an interesting point, as it'll be the first sustained output of information from Nintendo in 2016. There have been individual announcements covering major releases, of course, and combining all of January's release dates and reveals together - including an RPG bonanza in North America that included a press event - could just about form the basis of a mini Nintendo Direct; yet there was no actual Direct in January, so information came in small bites.
Overall, with the possible exception of buzz around early promotions for the Pokémon 20th Anniversary, Nintendo's reveals so far this year have been relatively quiet. Naturally, we're not suggesting that the upcoming financial reports will contain megatons of earth-shattering reveals, but Nintendo will be trying to balance its need to hold back exciting details for fan reveals with the requirement to satisfy and give confidence to investors. An example of how this has been done in the past is with amiibo - the range was initially loosely revealed to investors as the Nintendo Figurine Platform in May 2014, with an accompanying announcement that it'd be fully revealed at E3 that year. Those are the kinds of details and reveals that can happen.
So there's reason to be intrigued, along with recent investor confidence that hopefully points to a positive week for the company. With that in mind we've picked out key areas that could be expanded upon in the coming days through these financial reports and briefings; bear in mind we're trying to be realistic, so NX - for example - is only at the end and, no, we don't expect the system to be revealed. Not by a long shot.
So, what could feasibly come to light in the next few days? Let's get into it.
Miitomo and My Nintendo / Nintendo Account Launch Details
It's easy to forget in the short-term reality of the internet, but it was announced last year that Miitomo - the social 'conversation starter' smart device app produced with DeNA - and the My Account / Nintendo Account loyalty system are due in March. It has been reiterated recently that Miitomo is on track for that release period, and the two products have been aligned to accompany each other in a bold new Mii-based world of Nintendo accounts and interactions; more details and a release date seem like reasonable bets.
We think it's fair to say that most reading these words are probably more interested in the new My Nintendo loyalty account system, as it'll finally deliver a successor to Club Nintendo. When announced at the Q2 investor briefing (as we've said, reveals do come from these reports), it emphasized that players could receive rewards that vary from unique DLC, to eShop funds and physical rewards. It won't just be buying games that earns points (or whatever 'currency' it has) either, but aspects such as games completed, places visited and more could be factors. The account system is being designed to function across consoles and smart devices, too, so it should be all encompassing.
The Miitomo app hasn't exactly been warmly embraced, as far as this writer can tell, by too many in the Nintendo Life community. Nevertheless it's a big deal for Nintendo and DeNA following their high profile partnership launch in early 2015. The social app will aim to get the Nintendo brands on millions of smartphones and tablets around the world, directing users to Nintendo games while also looking to monetise itself - it'll be free to download - through other means (probably outfits, perhaps adverts). It's a big first step for the partnership, and investors in particular will be following its progress very closely.
Expanded Information on Smartphone Apps and Licensing
Smart devices will likely come up quite a lot in Kimishima-san's briefing and the investor Q & A, and with Miitomo around the corner some attention may turn to what's next in this area. Starting with the DeNA partnership, it'll be interesting to see whether any hints or even details are given on what's next from the partnership. More apps are expected this year, so it's a matter of timing to see whether other brands and projects will be highlighted; it wouldn't surprise us if Nintendo wants to emphasize a familiar brand and a more game-like experience for iOS and Android, to further boost investor confidence.
Also of relevance is Pokémon Go, a huge upcoming release that Nintendo and The Pokémon Company are co-publishing, with the highly regarded Niantic developing the real-world augmented reality app. There's been huge interest from the public, and the idea of finding 'mon, catching them and even trading them worldwide is unsurprising hugely exciting to a lot of fans. It's due this year and is being talked about a little more, so it may be explored as a key part of Nintendo's year.
Then there's licensing, which may get another update. In 2015 Nintendo caught some attention with the announcement of upcoming attractions being produced in partnership with Universal Studios for its theme parks. An update on this seems likely, while more business partnerships and promotions could certainly be on the agenda.
Updated Game Release Windows
This is another area that is a reliable point of interest, both directly - as one example the Mario Kart 8 release date came from a financial presentation - and from the 'Supplementary Information' document that will include an updated release schedule. Of particular interest is Star Fox Zero, which still only has an 'April' release for Europe and has been victim to some rumours - not particularly sturdy ones, it must be said - around a potential delay; the financial reports could bring an end to that. Europeans are still awaiting a Fire Emblem Fates date, meanwhile, and we still await a window beyond '2016' for Metroid Prime: Federation Force.
Oh, and if The Legend of Zelda for Wii U still has a 'TBD' release window as it did for the Q2 results, we'll be a little bit concerned.
Sales Figures and Status Updates on Wii U and 3DS
With all the talk of a next generation of hardware, the current generation should not be forgotten. The Wii U and 3DS still have important jobs to do, and these financial results and sales figures (which will run up to 31st December 2015) will tell us much about where those systems stand. Nintendo's sales target for the full year is a modest 3.4 million units for Wii U, and 7.6 million for the 3DS. The update's sales - and any movement in the forecasts - will tell us plenty about their momentum.
It's been tricky to judge how the Holiday season went, as a whole. Nintendo hardware was relatively dominant in Japan, including some excellent figures for the home console along with the usual success for the New 3DS LL (XL). In the US we had the Wii U being named the 'Top Selling Item' on Target.com for Black Friday, for one thing, but Nintendo of America hasn't given real figures for how the whole November / December period progressed. Hardware sales in Europe, likewise, are hard to judge.
Well, we'll have firm numbers, and Kimishima-san's briefing will no doubt also talk about broader plans for the year. Expect language promising to 'keep existing owners happy', while the overall tone and outline around the two systems will be interesting to see.
A Brief Update, and Maybe Timeline, for NX
We've put this last deliberately in order to manage expectations, and let's get one clear point out at the start - it's extremely unlikely (practically impossible) that Nintendo will 'reveal' the NX in these financial reports and briefings. We doubt the concept itself will even be spoken about, aside from some carefully managed and coded language - there may be terms and phrases like 'innovative' and 'exciting ideas' bandied around. Think about it, Nintendo doesn't reveal systems this way.
So what are we left with? Well, a brief mention may include a rough idea of when it will be revealed to the world; perhaps, like the amiibo example of our intro, this could be held until the end-of-year May briefing. If it does come up this week, as part of a bid to get investors excited, we may learn of a window for its unveiling, in terms of a season or even 'E3'. That would still give us a little bit of a buzz, it must be said.
If we're very lucky there'll be an indication of a target release window, but this seems unlikely. All told, NX may get a brief mention, and that'll likely have to be enough for now.
Of course, beyond these suggestions there may be the occasional curve ball. In past financial briefings Nintendo has announced the Wii U GamePad's quick start mode, DS games for the Wii U Virtual Console and, as highlighted above, concept information for amiibo, to name a few things. How much is included in the Q3 results and how much is held for a few months depends on Nintendo's priorities, and what announcements it'll want to share in order to clear the decks for later presentations.
Whatever comes, it should be fascinating.