Nintendo has sold some six million of its Wii U videogame consoles since its launch in 2012. The only problem: both Sony and Microsoft have each sold that many of their next-generation consoles - in just the last six months.
Nevertheless, the company - with North American headquarters in Redmond - made it clear this week that it's doubling down on the Wii U for 2014-2015. That was all detailed Tuesday in a 45-minute online video presentation during the E3 videogame convention in Los Angeles. It's the second straight year that Nintendo has presented videos during E3 rather than stage a production-heavy press event from the convention itself.
The biggest news from the presentation? The company wants in on the playable figurine business made popular by Activision's Skylander franchise. Nintendo's version, called Amiibos, are toy figures based on characters from the Nintendo universe such as Mario, Princess Peach and Link. Put those on a Wii U Gamepad, and a processor inside the toy will let you play as that character in a game. It will also allow you to store game play history within the figure.
Skylanders is well on its way to becoming a billion dollar franchise for Activision, so the potential is there for a much-needed revenue boost for Nintendo, which is coming off another dismal fiscal year weighed down by poor Wii U sales. Amiibos will be available for this year's holiday shopping season.
The Amiibos will also eventually work with the latest Super Smash Bros. game, soon to appear on store shelves. In fact, it was apparent during its digital presentation Tuesday that Nintendo will be leaning heavily on its established, well-loved characters and gaming franchises. There is a new Legend of Zelda title coming in 2015, a Hyrule Warriors game, Bayonetta 2 and other titles that star lesser characters in the Mario series such as Yoshi and Captain Toad.
Nintendo is clearly hoping this kind of familiarity will breed contented shareholders in its home country of Japan, and better Wii U sales in the U.S. (One can imagine the sales numbers from 2012 if many of these titles had been available for the console's launch.)
Nintendo's strategy is also clear with the Pokemon titles that are coming later this year. Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are remakes of earlier Game Boy Advance games from a decade ago. Now they're heading to the DS family of handheld devices, one of the few bright spots on Nintendo's balance sheet.