Nintendo Co., projecting the first drop in annual sales of its DS handheld player, says the forthcoming 3-D model will be the company’s biggest portable product introduction since 2004.
“We have ideas of what we want to bring to the consumer that we can’t do with the current” DS model, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said in an interview Monday. “The Nintendo 3DS for us is our next handheld platform.”
The world’s biggest maker of video-game machines joins Sony in embracing the 3-D technology that helped the film “Avatar” break box-office records. The 3DS, going on sale this fiscal year, will compete against Sony’s PlayStation Portable and Apple’s iPad in the market for portable game players.
“It seems more incremental than something as new as the DS was relative to” its predecessor Game Boy, said Jay Defibaugh, a games analyst at MF Global FXA Securities in Tokyo. “We’ll see how 3-D is implemented in the new DS, and that’s really the key.”
Nintendo, maker of the best-selling Wii console, last month said the new handheld device will allow users to see 3-D images without the need for special glasses. Fils-Aime declined to give further details about the product, saying the company’s announcements at the E3 trade show in Los Angeles in June will focus on the player.
Fils-Aime likened the 3DS’s debut to when Nintendo transitioned from the Game Boy to the dual-, touch-screen DS. Since the introduction in November 2004, DS player sales have exceeded 125 million, according to Nintendo’s Web site. Game Boy, the company’s first handheld platform, was released in 1989 and has sold more than 200 million units.
The company in January projected the number of DS players sold would drop 3.8 percent to 30 million, while software sales will slump 24 percent, in the 12 months ended March 31. The decline in the handheld business, combined with a 23 percent drop in Wii sales, would reduce the company’s net income 18 percent to $2.5 billion, Nintendo said at the time.
“The software business is softening for them and that is one issue that motivates the move to something new,” said Defibaugh, who has a “sell” rating on Nintendo. “The market is moving very quickly, especially in Nintendo’s sweet spot, which is the more casual sphere.”