Nintendo Profits Down Despite Robust Holiday Sales

Nintendo enjoyed robust sales during the year-end holiday season thanks to a handful of hit titles for its Wii and DS devices, the company said Thursday. The popularity of games like the latest Super Mario Bros title gave software sales a boost, particularly in Japan, but that wasn't enough to make up for poor performance earlier in 2009.

Sales in the first nine months of the company's current financial year, which is the period from April 2009, were down 23 percent at ¥1.2 trillion (US$13.4 billion) while net profit over the same period was off 9 percent at ¥192.6 billion. Nintendo said weak performance in the April to September period coupled with the strong Japanese Yen were largely to blame for the drops.

Nintendo had been enjoying high demand for its Wii console and DS handheld but that has started to weaken over the last few quarters.

As a result the company relaunched its DS device first as the DSi and then the DS LL. The launch of both handhelds led to local spikes in handheld hardware sales but overall sales of the DS for the nine-month period remained weak. They were 23.3 million for the period, down from 25.6 million units.

Sales of the Wii console stood at 17 million units for the period, which is down about 3 million units on the year earlier. Nintendo typically relaunches hardware products when sales slow so the weakness of the Wii over recent quarters has led several industry watchers to tip that a new version might be coming in 2010.

Software sales were helped by a series of games that sold over 10 million copies including "Wii Fit Plus" and "New Super Mario Bros" on the Wii. "Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks" launched in December for the DS and sold 2.4 million copies worldwide, said Nintendo.

But as with hardware sales nine-month figures were down due to weakness during the earlier part of the period. DS software sales were 121.4 million units, down 26 percent, while Wii software sales stood at 156.7 million units, down 4 percent.

Nintendo kept most of its year-end sales forecasts unchanged but raised its Wii software target from 180 million units to 192 million. The hike wasn't a result of higher demand but a change in the way it recognizes software titles that are bundled with hardware.

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