By the time business had concluded in 2013, Nintendo found itself in a distant third-place position in video game consoles. Although its Wii U was performing slightly better with such releases as Super Mario 3D World and The Wind Waker HD, it was still lagging behind the likes of Microsoft and Sony in terms of popularity. This year, however, told a different story.
Nintendo was losing money big time at the start of 2014, as well as the confidence of various third party developers, who dropped most of their projects on the system, including Assassin’s Creed and the new Call of Duty. That said, Nintendo managed to thrive by the end of 2014, mostly due to its first-party releases.
The Wii U, for example, saw an upswing in sales beginning at the end of May when Mario Kart 8 was released, and continuing during the holiday season. Original game releases like Hyrule Warriors and Bayonetta 2 earned critical acclaim, while new entries in the Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. franchises ended up being big sellers, leading the way for Nintendo’s return to profitability. Also helping out the company were the new Amiibo toys, featuring a number of popular and obscure Nintendo characters. They’ve become hot commodity in themselves, leading to an estimated $1 billion in retail sales – a number that continues to rise with new waves releasing over the next few months. Nintendo reported that its Wii U sales for Black Friday were up 10 percent over last year, which is good but not enough to catch up to the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4.
As a result of improved hardware and software sales, Nintendo has managed to emerge with a profit of ¥36.8 billion for the year so far, a huge leap from the ¥23.2 billion it was losing the year before. Not only that, but it also has a promising 2015 in the works for both the 3DS and Wii U systems, with such games as The Legend of Zelda Wii U, Majora’s Mask 3D and StarFox in the works, along with original titles like Mario Maker (where players can create their own levels and share them with the community) and the innovative multiplayer shooter Splatoon.
Nintendo also cleaned up in the public eye, not only winning over fans with its tremendous game line-up, but also with winning several awards on this year’s Game Awards presentation, and pleasing them with surprising game footage from Zelda and other projects.
Although it still has a ways to go to win back most third party publishers, Nintendo has certainly improved over what it’s been doing the previous year, and it’s going into 2015 with plenty of new titles in the works. There are also hints of new hardware, including a more stable 3DS model and a possible new system coming in 2016 (or perhaps sooner), with revolutionary technical specs in tow.