Nintendo eyes sale of 10 mn Switch consoles in year to March

Nintendo launched the Switch console in March and said it sold 2.74 million of the consoles in that month alone

Nintendo expects to sell 10 million units of the new Switch game console over the next year, the company said Thursday, as it bets big on the successor to its poor-selling Wii U.

The forecast came as Nintendo reported its net profit in the just-ended business year soared more than six-fold, though operating profit and revenue fell from a year ago.

That gain in the bottom line largely owed to the sale of a major stake in the Seattle Mariners baseball team, worth $661 million.

The creator of the iconic Super Mario character launched the Switch in March and said it sold 2.74 million of the consoles in that month alone.

Serkan Toto, industry analyst with Kantan Games, said what is now certain is that Switch is the company's "bread-and-butter product for the videogame business".

Nintendo's fiscal year to March net profit came in at 102.6 billion yen ($921 million), compared with 16.5 billion yen a year ago.

The Switch retails for $299 and works both at home and on the go.

It blends Nintendo's history in the console and handheld device business with its fledgling mobile gaming strategy, which got a big brand win after Pokemon Go's success last summer.

Switch's future hinges on whether Nintendo can provide a continued stream of attractive game titles, said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute in Tokyo.

"Nintendo Switch got off to a flying start," he said. "But there is a concern that the sales could slow down quickly like the short-lived boom of Wii-U."

For the last financial year Nintendo's operating profit fell 10.7 percent to 29.36 billion on sales of 489.09 billion yen, down three percent, the company said, amid poor demand for the Wii-U console.

However, Toto of Kantan Games said that Nintendo was preparing a strong game lineup for Switch, and the company might even exceed the target.

That is because initial sales are "actually very, very healthy".

Pokemon Go sparked a worldwide craze last year that has captured customers beyond the company's traditional fan base.

The mobile app, developed by an outsider, significantly spiced up its brand and spilled over to boost the popularity of the overall Pokemon franchise.

"The impact of Pokemon Go is gradually emerging as Pokemon Go helped stimulate sales of its software using Pokemon characters," Yasuda added.

For the current year to March 2018, Nintendo expects net profit to fall 56.1 percent from the just ended year, largely reflecting the one-off gain from the baseball sale.

Operating profit is expected to more than double, with sales rising 53.3 percent, driven largely by Switch and Nintendo 3DS games as it also continues to explore the smart phone game market, the company said.