• Reuters, Kyodo

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Nintendo Co. on Thursday hiked the sales forecast for its hit Switch gaming console to 24 million units in the year ending March 2021 from 19 million previously, as the COVID-19 pandemic boosts consumer spending on home gaming.

The jump in the sales forecast came as the Kyoto-based firm reported operating profit for April-September had tripled to ¥291.4 billion from ¥94 billion in the same period a year earlier.

The news reflects robust demand for the Switch and blockbuster game titles including Animal Crossing, which has proved a hit during the isolation of the pandemic.

Buoyed by demand driven by stay-at-home requests, sales of the portable console have reached 68.30 million since its 2017 release, surpassing the 61.91 million units set by the Famicom game console — also known as the Nintendo Entertainment System — that was launched in 1983.

Nintendo set a sales target for the Switch console for the business year of 24 million units, revised upward from 19 million.

Total revenue for fiscal 2020 through March is expected to reach ¥1.4 trillion, up 7.0% from the previous year and operating profit is projected to increase 27.7% to ¥450 billion.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has proved to be one of the hit video games of the COVID-19 era. | COURTESY OF NINTENDO CO. / VIA KYODO
Animal Crossing: New Horizons has proved to be one of the hit video games of the COVID-19 era. | COURTESY OF NINTENDO CO. / VIA KYODO

Among popular game titles, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has proved to be a smash hit, selling 14.27 million globally in the April-September period. Cumulative sales since its March launch have reached 26.04 million, according to Nintendo.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also reported strong sales in the six months through Sept. 30.

However, Nintendo, had originally been reluctant to hike forecasts despite blistering sales of the Switch, saying the boost from stuck-at-home consumers may prove transitory.

But lockdowns and curbs imposed around the world to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus mean other entertainment options remain curtailed for many as consumers look toward the year-end shopping season, pointing to continued demand for gaming.

Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. will both release next-generation consoles next week, adding to competition for the mid-cycle Switch, which launched in March 2017.

Sony’s gaming chief said last week that pre-release demand for its upcoming console, the PlayStation 5, is exceeding expectations, with the tech giant raising its full-year forecast.

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