Nintendo Co suffered as a latecomer to smartphone games, but it is seeing the deep wealth of its franchise characters pay off with the success of Pokemon Go, even without a launch in Japan yet.
The Japanese game maker was starting to look like a casualty of history until the game was launched in the US earlier this month. Not anymore.
Nintendo’s management missed both the online and mobile revolutions. The popularity of Pokemon Go says much about the untapped value of cultural properties — at least when you are lucky enough to deploy them in the right place at the right time.
“Nintendo might have been slow to adapt to the smartphone era, but now that it’s doing it, it’s doing it in full force and showing tremendous power,” financial analyst Hiroyuki Kubota said.
The windfall from what Kubota dubs “Pokenomics” could help reverse Nintendo’s fortunes, although some analysts think its impact on the company’s revenues will be limited because the game is free apart from certain revenue-earning features, he said.
Nintendo’s original Pokemon game featured adventurous wanderings through a fantasy world to collect cute, imaginary monsters. Pokemon Go involves finding digital creatures that pop up in the screen of your mobile device as you move about the real world. In the US — where it is extremely popular — some people have injured themselves in pursuit of the monsters, falling or getting distracted while driving.
The augmented-reality game could boost recognition for Nintendo’s brand that is likely to trickle down to other sales, including analog items such as Pokemon cards or dolls, income from Pokemon movies, and other Nintendo games such as Donkey Kong, Kubota told reporters.
Nintendo stock has surged since Pokemon Go became available in the US, recently trading at about ￥26,500 (US$252.86) per share in Tokyo, up more than 40 percent from its levels before Pokemon Go.
Staff at Nintendo, which also owns the Super Mario and Zelda franchises, appear baffled by the overseas craze, referring all queries on Pokemon Go to its affiliate Pokemon Co.
The affiliate company refused a request for an interview with founder Tsunekazu Ishihara, saying it was turning down all such requests.
A spokeswoman did answer basic questions, such as denying the company has decided on a launch date for Pokemon Go in Japan.
Anticipation is running high, with rumors circulating the game might be coming to Japan sometime this week.
Online, many Japanese are questioning why Americans are having all the fun even though Pokemon originated in Japan.
“Everyone is getting antsy. The bigger it gets in the US, the more frustrated fans are getting in Japan,” said Motohiko Tokuriki, chief marketing officer at Tokyo-based Agile Media Network, which specializes in online marketing.
Still, since Pokemon Go is based on US company Niantic Labs’ Ingress game, it made sense for the game to launch overseas first, said Tokuriki, who has a popular blog about technology.
It took matching Niantic’s game with Pokemon characters to deliver the experience that is gripping so many people. Cautious Japanese might have squelched such a new concept, focusing on risks such as accidents or the reported use of the game to lure potential robbery victims.
“This is about the Nintendo universe,” said Tokuriki, who was looking forward to playing Pokemon Go with his fourth-grade and preschool children. “That’s why this is not about ‘Disney Go.’ This is about Pokemon Go.”
Pokemon Go is the kind of game the creators of Pokemon might have come up with 20 years ago had current augmented reality and smartphone technology been available then.
Nintendo started out in 1889 as a traditional playing-cards maker and hit the world by storm with its series of video game consoles, starting with the Family Computer, or FamiCom for short, in the 1980s.
Its Game Boy and DS hand-held machines pioneered mobile games, and Japanese children have been using network connections on such machines to play games with total strangers.
However, Nintendo resisted smartphones and mobile devices for years, sticking to its trusted formula as it struggled to protect its core earnings.
That strategy foundered as the company posted losses in two of the past five fiscal years, hit by competition from smartphones and unfavorable exchange rates.
Ultimately, Pokemon Go is aligned with the vision of its former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, who died last year after leading Nintendo for more than a dozen years.
Contrary to the stereotype of a solitary game player glued to a display in a room, Iwata believed everyone is a child-at-heart, eager to go outside and play, interacting with the world and other people.
“Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun. Fun for everyone,” he said, in one of his most quoted comments.
ELECTRONICS Lite-On delays sale of unit Lite-On Technology Corp (光寶科技) yesterday said it would postpone the sale of its solid-state drives (SSD) business to Kioxia Holdings Corp, formerly known as Toshiba Memory Holdings Corp, due to disruptions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the Taiwan-based electronics components supplier struck the deal with the Japanese firm, agreeing to sell the unit for US$165 million. Citing unfinished integration work due to the pandemic, Lite-On has deferred today’s closing date until further notice, adding that the delay would not have a negative effect on the unit’s operations. AUTO PARTS Hiroca approves dividend Automotive interior parts supplier Hiroca
NOT ALL GOOD: Analysts warned that other data for last month might be less rosy due to the virus and analysts expect the PMI to contract again next month Chinese factory activity saw surprise growth last month as businesses went back to work following a lengthy shutdown, but analysts said that the economy faces a challenging recovery as external demand has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, while the World Bank said that growth could screech to a halt. China is slowly returning to life after months of tough restrictions aimed at containing the virus, which put millions of people into virtual house arrest and brought economic activity to a near standstill. The strict measures saw a closely watched gauge of manufacturing plunge to its lowest level on record in February,
ALL ABOUT STRATEGY: The company is optimistic, saying that its gross margin should increase year-on-year, but it is scaling back on its plans to expand capacity Quang Viet Enterprise Co (QVE, 廣越), which makes down jackets and garments for sportswear and outdoor brands including Adidas AG, yesterday said that revenue might drop 5 to 10 percent annually this year as some customers trimmed orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That would mark its first revenue decline since 2016. Quang Viet posted record-high revenue of NT$16.26 billion (US$537.45 million) last year, up 22 percent from 2018. Down jackets made up 40 percent of it revenue last year. North Face Inc and Patagonia Inc are this year likely to reduce orders by 20 to 30 percent from a
Taipei 101, one of the nation’s leading shopping centers, is planning to reduce its business hours due to decreased demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Taipei 101 is to open daily at noon and close at 9pm from April 6, building management said in a statement on Monday. The shopping center has been opening at 11am and closing at 9:30pm from Sunday to Thursday, while closing at 10pm on Friday and Saturday. The restaurants in the food court — on the basement level — would adjust their business hours as necessary, but the supermarket would continue to open at 9am daily, management said. The shopping