Nintendo sees record sales, profits despite recession

The generally positive numbers were offset by a big drop in business in Japan

Nintendo achieved record sales and profits in the year to March as consumers around the world snapped up its Wii console and DS handheld despite the recession, it said Thursday.

The performance was ahead of revised estimates issued by the company in January this year but within the numbers was evidence of a big drop in business in its home market.

In Japan, sales of the Wii console almost halved in the financial year to just over 2 million units while sales of the DS were down 37 percent at just over 4 million units. Software sales saw less severe drops with Wii sales off 13 percent and DS sales off 20 percent.

The flagging performance of the handheld DS led Nintendo to launch an updated version in late 2008 and that helped improve performance for the year. More than half of all DS sales in Japan in the year were of the new "DSi" version, the company said.

All of this led to a drop in Japanese sales, excluding business between different divisions of Nintendo, by 30 percent over the same period last year.

Elsewhere, sales of the Wii were strong with rises of 57 percent in the Americas and 69 percent in other markets to push total Wii sales for the year to 25.95 million units. That's up 39 percent on the same period a year earlier.

For the current fiscal year, from April 2009 to March 2010, Nintendo expects Wii sales to be almost flat at 26 million.

DS sales were buoyed by the new DSi, which launched in early April so Nintendo could include initial shipments to retailers in the previous financial year's sales numbers.

Higher sales overseas managed to offset the drop in Japan and overall DS hardware sales were up 3 percent at 31.2 million units. For the current year Nintendo expects annual sales to drop to 30 million units.

DS software shipments are also forecast to drop in the current year by 9 percent but Wii software is expected to be rise by about 7 percent.

Overall Nintendo reported sales of ¥1.8 trillion (US$18.7 billion), up 10 percent, and net profit of ¥279 billion, up 8.5 percent.

For the current year Nintendo is pinning its hopes on new software titles to drive business, including "Wii Sports Resort" due out in the middle of the year and "Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks" due out later in 2009.

It is also looking to new services that can be delivered by the Wii through its Internet connection, including the "Wii no Ma" channel that was launched this week in Japan.

Nintendo's forecasts call for roughly flat sales of ¥1.8 trillion and improved net profit of ¥300 billion.

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Martyn Williams

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