* Company has talked internally about share buyback
* President says no need seen to replace Wii console
(Adds analyst's comments)
By Franklin Paul
LOS ANGELES, June 16 Nintendo Co Ltd 7974.OS,
confident that its Wii will stand up against rivals Microsoft Corp
(MSFT.O) and Sony Corp (6758.T), says it feels no pressure to
reinvent the pioneering motion-sensing games platform.
President Satoru Iwata said that despite decelerating sales
growth, there is life yet in the Wii and that updates of popular
games like Metroid, Donkey Kong and Wii Party will keep it moving
off store shelves.
But Nintendo keenly understands the importance of getting
third-party game developers on board early, much like the
participation enjoyed by the 3DS -- the 3D-capable mobile gaming
device announced on Tuesday.
"I do not think that there is an immediate need to replace the
Wii console. But of course, at some point in the future, the need
will arise," Iwata said through a translator on the sidelines of
the E3 video game conference in Los Angeles.
"We currently do not have an answer as to what point in the
future that need will come."
TAKE A LOOK-GAMESHOW-E3 showcases latest gaming gadgets
Graph on U.S. video game makers vs. the Nasdaq:
The Wii -- which employs a stick-like controller that doubles
as everything from a tennis racket to a baseball bat in games --
popularized motion gaming and has brought casual users into the
gaming population in past years.
But that success was hard-won, Iwata said.
"When we first launched the DS and the Wii, very few people
thought that we would have the success that we have had so far.
Because of that, Nintendo had no choice but to try to create that
market for those two platforms ourselves," he said.
"So when that time comes (for us to release a new platform)
and we are able to garner third-party support coupled with our own
properties, we will be able to create a very healthy environment
for that platform."
Nintendo on Tuesday took the wraps off a new version of its DS
handheld device that can play games and show movies in 3D without
glasses, as the hardware wars with Microsoft and Sony Corp heat
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
On Monday, Microsoft said it will begin selling its "Kinect"
motion-sensing game system on Nov. 4. [ID:nN14149623]
On Tuesday, Sony announced that its Move motion-sensing
platform -- which will compete with the Wii and Kinect -- will
begin selling on Sept. 15. [ID:nN15104800]
The Japanese company rode strong demand for the Wii and DS
handheld game player to three straight years of record profits
through March 2009, but growth slowed last year after Sony and
Microsoft cut console prices and beefed up their software
Microsoft's foray into motion sensing is, like the Wii,
targeted at casual gamers, and is aimed at bringing more of the
household into the gaming population, broadening the market beyond
the traditional core of young males.
But some, like Signal Hill analyst Todd Greenwald, argue that
blockbuster sales of games like Ubisoft's (UBIP.PA) "Tom Clancy's
Splinter Cell: Conviction" or Take Two Interactive's (TTWO.O) "Red
Dead Redemption" prove the sustained momentum in sales lies more
with hard-core players.
That's particularly true as the economy makes casual gamers
think twice about buying a console, Greenwald said.
"The reason to buy a Wii has changed dramatically over the
past six months or so," he said. "The people who are still buying
games are the hardcore-type gamer, and that hard-core gamer is
going to buy a 360 or PS3."
"I would say that Microsoft and Sony should get a pretty big
boost over the next six months or so versus the Wii."
Nintendo last month forecast a second straight year of smaller
To cheer shareholders, Nintendo has considered a share
buyback, but only if a specific need arises.
"(A buyback) is something that we do take into consideration
and may do as the need arises," Iwata said.
But the company would not discuss its plans in public.
According to consultants NPD, six of the top 10 games sold
last year in the United States were for the Wii, and all were
developed by Nintendo, which further boosts its coffers. The top
Nintendo Wii game was "New Super Mario Bros Wii."
In response to a question about growing sales of Sony's
PlayStation 3, Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America President,
said: "It is easy to talk about growth when you are working off of
a very low base."
"The fact is that when you look at the absolute number for
units sold, it is clear that the pace is dramatically better than
either of our competitors," he said. "The absolute level of sales
has been widening in our favor."
Nintendo said new games for the Wii in coming months include
updates to its own franchise hits such as "Legend of Zelda" and
"Donkey Kong," as well as "Just Dance 2" from Ubisoft, and a new
James Bond game from Activision's "GoldenEye" series.
(Reporting by Franklin Paul; editing by Phil Berlowitz)