Nintendo slips to $57 million operating loss in H1; bets on Super Mario Run and Switch

Nintendo slumped to an operating loss for the six months ended September 30, 2016, due to a slowdown in sales of video game hardware and software, as well as a relatively stronger yen.

The Kyoto-based company said Wednesday it registered an operating loss of 5.95 billion yen ($57.09 million) between April and September, compared to a profit of 8.98 billion yen a year earlier, while net sales for the period were down 33 percent on-year to 136.81 billion yen.

The bulk of the first half losses in fiscal 2017 came in the April-June quarter this year, when Nintendo slipped to an operating loss of 5.13 billion yen.

Tomohiro Ohsumi | Getty Images

Helping to offset some of the losses was the sale of part of Nintendo's ownership in the company that managed the Seattle Mariners baseball team in the U.S. in August. Nintendo recorded 62.7 billion yen as extraordinary income.

Nintendo also said earnings from affiliates for the first half of fiscal 2017 came in at 12 billion yen, bulk of it coming from the Pokemon business.

For the full fiscal year, Nintendo revised its operating income forecast down to 30 billion yen from a July estimate of 45 billion yen.

Atul Goyal, an analyst at Jefferies, told CNBC's "The Rundown" on Wednesday before the earnings release that Nintendo's operations would likely start to pick up from the October-December quarter, as the company gears up for the launch of its first mobile game built in-house.

Mobile as the future for Nintendo

In September, Nintendo announced it would release a mobile game, Super Mario Run, in December, featuring one of its most popular game characters.

The game will launch on Apple's iOS platform and was developed with Mario creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, at the helm. Users will have to pay a set purchase price to enjoy all of the content available in the initial release; beyond that, Nintendo did not provide any information.

Goyal believed the shift to mobile will unlock Nintendo's true value. "When it comes to the casual game user market, the biggest owner of relevant intellectual property is Nintendo," he said.

The storied game-maker pushed into smartphone apps and games by partnering up with mobile firm DeNA in 2015 and enjoyed a surge of popularity this year from the successful launch of the Pokemon Go mobile game, developed by Niantic.

Nintendo's overall dedicated video game hardware sales fell 56.3 percent on-year in the first half of fiscal 2017, while dedicated software sales dropped 46.52 percent.

Against this backdrop, the company said Pokemon Go led to increased sales of software in the Pokemon series and drove hardware sales growth for the 3DS game console family outside Japan.

"Consoles will cover the costs [while] the real upside is from the new business that is going to be on mobile, and Super Mario Run is the beginning," said Goyal.

Nintendo previously said it has plans to release mobile games for other series such as Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem by March 2017.

The 'confusing' Switch

Last week, Nintendo teased its upcoming hybrid gaming console, the Nintendo Switch. Reuters reported on Wednesday that Nintendo expects to ship about 2 million units of Switch consoles by March 2017, but not everyone has been impressed with the device.

"We think it's a confusing product," Amir Anvarzdeh, director of Japan equity sales at BGC Securities in Singapore, told CNBC's "Capital Connection." "We don't think it really targets the casual gamers."

Anvarzdeh said he was concerned that the Switch, which is likely going to be the follow up console to the popular 3DS, would not be able to match the latter in terms of sales, which would then eat into Nintendo's profitability.

In the first half of fiscal 2017, Nintendo sold about 2.7 million consoles of the 3DS family.

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