Tech

Nintendo makes the Switch

Japanese game-maker releases new hybrid console aimed at revitalising sales

Yesterday, Nintendo unveiled its new Switch game console, which works both at home and on the go.

The hybrid device, which will go head to head with rival Sony's hugely popular PlayStation 4, is aimed at offsetting disappointing Wii U sales.

The Switch comes as Nintendo dips its toe into the mobile gaming market after scoring a big win for its brand with the success of Pokemon Go.

The company said its new console is full of Nintendo's "entertainment DNA", with elements of earlier devices, including the 3DS handheld device and motion-sensor Wii.

Before the event, Daiwa Securities described the unveiling as "a key turning point for Nintendo's earnings and share price".

But Switch got off to an inauspicious start in October when a sneak peak at the console left gamers and analysts underwhelmed and with many unanswered questions.

Nintendo's Tokyo-listed stock dived after it released a three-minute video about the product on its YouTube channel. The shares fell 2.24 per cent to 24,635 yen (S$306) yesterday ahead of the media event in Tokyo, where the company released more details, saying it will go on sale on March 3 for US$299 (S$430) and 29,980 yen in Japan.

Switch has a removable screen that lets players dock it at home and also use it on the go like a tablet computer with detachable controllers on both sides. It uses cartridges rather than discs.

Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima presenting the company’s new gaming console, the Nintendo Switch, yesterday.PHOTO: NINTENDO

Switch will be crucial for Nintendo, which needs a hit product to offset the flagging fortunes of the Wii U and 3DS, as rival Sony racks up huge sales of the PS4 - it has sold more than 50 million units since its debut in late 2013.

In November, Sony started selling the US$400 PS4 Pro, which promises even sharper graphics than earlier versions.

SMARTPHONE GAME

After struggling to fix its weak finances, Nintendo abandoned a long-held consoles-only policy and decided to enter the smartphone game market.

Last year, the Super Mario-maker released Miitomo - a free-to-play and interactive game - as it tries to compete in an industry that has increasingly gone online.

It scored another hit with the Pokemon Go app released in July, but the impact on Nintendo's profits will be limited - the company is the creator of the Pokemon franchise, but it does not own the licence for the game, which was developed and distributed by US-based Niantic, a spin-off of Google.

Last month, Nintendo released the Super Mario Run game for iPhones, which topped download charts and drew more than 40 million downloads globally in the first four days after its release, according to the company.

But analysts warned its popularity could be hampered by a relatively high US$10 price tag for access to the full game, since many online offerings are free.

- AFP

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