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Nintedo jumps on Switch launch

March 3, 2017

Shares in the Japanese gaming giant have surged more than three percent, outperforming a falling Tokyo stock market, as the company launched its new Switch console to compete with Sony's top-selling PlayStation 4.

Japan Nintendo Switch Konsole
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/K. Sasahara

Nintendo shares ended 3.40 percent higher in Tokyo on Friday, as its new console went on sale with gamers queuing up outside stores around the country. The news agency AFP reported that retailers quickly ran out of stocks for customers who had not pre-ordered their units.

The $299-apiece Switch is a hybrid system that is part gaming console, part handheld device and part tablet, which allows for different styles of play.

Switch comes at a pivotal moment for Nintendo, which faces mounting competition from rival Sony and mobile gaming. Moreover, sales have suffered because Nintendo has been reluctant to use its most popular characters in smartphone games.

The company said it was aiming to move about two million Switch consoles in its first month.

Reviving past fortunes

In the past, Kyoto-based Nintendo used to be successful with its traditional home consoles, such as the Nintendo 64, and portable devices like GameBoy and the DS handheld. Its Wii console was also a top-seller, with over 100 million units sold worldwide after its launch a decade ago. However, its follow-up Wii U, released in 2012, was a major disappointment. 

In a bid to revive its fortunes, Nintendo abandoned its consoles-only policy and decided to enter the smartphone game market.

It scored a hit with the Pokémon Go app released in July 2016, but the impact on Nintendo's profits is limited as it did not actually develop the game.

In December, Nintendo released the Super Mario Run game for iPhones, which topped download charts and drew tens of millions of downloads.


Investors were initially underwhelmed by Switch console, when the firm gave gamers a sneak peak of its newest console. But now the release seems to have encouraged them to believe that Nintendo could manage to get back in the game.

Serkan Toto, CEO of consultancy firm Kantan Games, thinks the console is a game-changer. "The Switch is a clear reflection of Nintendo's background as a toy maker," he said.

Serkan Toto, a Tokyo-based games industry consultant, said Switch was probably one of the most important consoles for Nintendo in the past decades. "It's the first time where Nintendo basically combines portable games and home console games into one device," he told AFP.

But Toto also warned that the company's strategy to win in two different markets had its risks. "Some people could say that Nintendo is trying to kill two birds with one stone and that it could actually land in the middle and not really catch any of the target groups."

Switch has a removable screen that lets players dock it at home and also use it on the go like a tablet with detachable controllers - called Joy-Con - on both sides.

The idea is to give gamers a more immersive experience with realistic physical sensations matched to what is happening on-screen.

Initially, there would be only eight games available for the system, including a Legend of Zelda offering, Nintendo said, adding that scores more were in the pipeline.

uhe/kd (AFP, Reuters, dpa)