Nintendo machine sales said safe despite switch

Nintendo Co.’s loss of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, two popular home video game series, will not affect sales of its 64-bit video game machine, Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi said Feb. 3 in Tokyo.

In a surprise move last February, software company Square, which developed the Final Fantasy series for Nintendo’s machines, selected Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.’s 32-bit PlayStation as the platform for the new version. Likewise, Enix Corp., which developed megatitle Dragon Quest for Nintendo’s machines, recently announced that the next version of the series will be developed for PlayStation, not for Nintendo’s hardware Nintendo 64.

The shift of the two software companies to SCE is expected to encourage sales of PlayStation. SCE’s PlayStation is currently capturing a growing share of the home video game market. Sega Enterprises Ltd. and Nintendo, forerunner of home video machines, have been struggling to compete with SCE. “After such a big hit with the past Dragon Quest series, it is difficult to come up with fresh ideas,” Yamauchi told a news conference.

Because Enix subcontracts software development, it cannot guarantee that the new Dragon Quest version will be released by spring 1999 as the company indicated earlier, he said. “I know a person who developed the series, and he has not even come up with a new idea for the new version,” he said. “Who can be sure that the next software developed for the 32-bit machine will be better than previous ones?” he asked, adding that its 64-bit machine is of better quality and offers advantages over the 32-bit hardware.

Yamauchi also said the merger of game machine giant Sega and Bandai Co., the nation’s No. 1 toy company, is no threat to Nintendo’s business. The two firms announced last month that they will merge Oct. 1 to create a multimedia entertainment conglomerate.

“I don’t understand why people talk about their merger being a threat to the industry,” Yamauchi said at a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. The year’s consolidated-basis business results ending March 31 are expected to be positive, indicating Nintendo’s potential growth, he said.

Although Japan saw sluggish shipments, of 1.85 million units, of Nintendo 64 in the six months until December, the United States proved lucrative, with 2.14 million units sold in the last three months until December, he said.