SAN FRANCISCO – Nintendo Co. President Satoru Iwata has delivered his clearest message yet to gamers about the company’s future: Don’t count the Wii U out yet.
Nintendo, threatened with becoming an also-ran in the market for home consoles, announced a half-dozen new titles for the Wii U in an online presentation for the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, including a multiplayer shooter game called Splatoon and Super Smash Bros., and unveiled a collectible-toy platform for the console called Amiibo, similar to Activision Blizzard Inc.’s Skylanders.
The maker of Super Mario and Zelda has struggled to revive sales of the Wii U after missteps including delays in getting key titles to stores. The Mario Kart 8 racing title sold more than 1.2 million units globally during the last weekend of May, and Nintendo is counting on holiday releases to build momentum for a console many analysts expected the company to write off.
“Nintendo is all about invention and reinvention and bringing Nintendo magic to consumers,” Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo America, said in a recent interview. Nintendo, based in Kyoto, Japan, has no plans to end production of the Wii or cut prices, he said.
The company’s presentation video made humorously jabs at critical gamers while mixing ninja-like battles between Fils- Aime and Iwata, the company offered a roadmap for the Wii U and 3DS handheld that extends well into next year. Super Smash Bros. will be in HD on the Wii U for the first time, and make its debut on the 3DS, both in time for the holiday season.
The company also is jumping into the multibillion dollar collectible-toy category with Amiibo, figures that users place on the Wii U’s GamePad tablet to enter a Nintendo character into a game. There will be about 10 Amiibos for purchase with the Super Smash Bros. game, and more by year-end, Fils-Aime said. He declined to say what they will cost.
Nintendo previously called the Amiibos the Nintendo Figurine Platform for the Wii U. Similar to Activision’s Skylanders and Walt Disney Co.’s Infinity, the system combines video games with collectible figures.
Unlike the others, Nintendo’s real-world characters will work across multiple games and don’t require a portal to enable wireless communication between the game machine and toy.
Nintendo also showed Splatoon. The title, available next year, lets two teams of four take on roles as squids that can morph into people, shooting different colored ink to take over a battlefield in timed matches.
Early next year, Nintendo plans to release a new Zelda game, a title called Xenoblade Chronicles X and a Mario racing game that lets users make their own courses.
Iwata earlier this year projected an annual loss and cut sales forecasts, though he’s said he won’t abandon Nintendo’s focus on both hardware and software. The company yesterday didn’t address his earlier comments about entering the health category with new products.
Nintendo fell 0.8 percent to ¥11,890 yesterday in Tokyo. The shares have declined 15 percent this year.
Nintendo is trying to convince retailers its consoles are viable and a good alternative to the similarly featured Xbox One from Microsoft Corp. and PlayStation 4 from Sony Corp., Fils- Aime said.
The Wii U’s holiday sales could be the deciding factor for both retailers and third-party game developers.
“They have to perform this year,” said Yves Guillemot, chief executive officer of Ubisoft SA.