Stung by lower Wii sales and a couple of down quarters, Nintendo may be a bit off its game this year. But Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo of America's executive vice president of sales and marketing, keeps focused on the company's strengths and positive numbers.
The recession and a paucity of blockbuster titles have taken a bite out of the overall video game industry this year, with revenue down from record levels in 2008. Nintendo certainly hasn't been immune. For the first half of the year, earnings fell about 50 percent from 2008, while Will sales dipped.
In the midst of this atmosphere, I spoke on Thursday with Dunaway, known to many video game buffs for her high-spirited appearances at E3.
Though I asked Dunaway about the company's revenue decline, lower console sales, and potential competition, she continually championed Nintendo's assets, including its Wii and DS consoles and recent popular games like Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus, as well as new titles like Super Mario Bros.
Dunaway's optimism about Nintendo may have been borne out by the latest results. Though overall video game revenue fell in October, the Wii bounced back to recover its spot as the top selling console, according to NPD.
Last month, Nintendo sold 507,000 Wiis, compared with 320,600 Sony PlayStation 3s and 249,700 Microsoft Xbox 360s. Coming in second in video game hardware sales was Nintendo's portable DSi and DS Lite, with gamers scooping up 457,000 units.
Four of Nintendo's titles also did well in October, finishing in the top 10. The company sold 232,000 copies of Wii Fit Plus alone, and 209,000 of Wii Fit Plus bundled with the Balance Board. Wii Sports Resort scored with 179,000 copies sold, while Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days for the DS found 169,000 new customers.
I spoke with Dunaway by phone before before NPD released the October sales figures. But she certainly knew ahead of time that the numbers would look good for Nintendo.
Q: The question on everyone's mind is Nintendo's performance this year. For the first half, earnings were down about 50 percent. Sales for the Wii have dropped. Your president, [Satoru] Iwata, recently admitted that sales of the Wii have stalled. What do you pin as the reasons for this downturn, both for the company and for the Wii itself? Dunaway: Let's talk about the U.S., and let's break it down into the separate platforms. So, speaking first about the Wii--what's important to understand is that in 2008, we sold 10 million units of the Wii, which was a record for any console ever in history. And so it's a high mark.
What's also important to understand is that the pacing of our software this year was quite different than it was in 2008. In 2008, our big titles were released early in the year. And this year's huge title, released a few weeks ago in October, Wii Fit Plus, is doing quite well. And then arguably, the largest title of the year, New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii, only releases Sunday [November 15]. So we believe that going into the holiday season, consumers will continue to look for the products they see as representing the best value and the most fun.
Now on DS, we also had a record setting year last year, selling over 10 million units, and we are actually 16 percent above that pace year-to-date in 2009. So the combination of DS Lite and our new product DSi is really resonating with consumers.
Then on software, here in the U.S., our software for both Wii and Nintendo DS is actually up over a year ago. So despite the fact that our big titles are yet to come, we still have had a good year overlapping a tremendous year with our software.
Can you talk about some of the new titles Nintendo has in store for the holidays and next year? You mentioned Super Mario Bros. is a key title for the holidays. Are there others? Dunaway: Looking to some of the additional titles for the holidays, New Super Mario Bros., for the first time enables four people to play a Mario game together. And it is going to be something that provides tremendous challenge to experienced gamers, and something a brand new gamer can jump in with their friends and family and enjoy. So that one will be a monster hit.
We also on the DS side have a new Zelda title--Zelda Spirit Tracks--coming on December 7. And Zelda titles are always strong performers, and it's a franchise that loyalists look forward to, line up to get copies of. And it's a title that we also think expanded market consumers will enjoy because of its heart. It's really about solving puzzles and going on an adventure, which is something that really anyone can have a good time doing.
Then as we go into next year, while we haven't announced timing, we have announced that we'll be launching a new Pokemon Gold and Silver, which has broken all records on its launch in Japan. [We're also launching] a title that will be great for loyalists called Sin & Punishment and a title called Endless Ocean that really provides a wonderful family experience on the Wii.… Read more