First it was Microsoft. Then it was Sony. Now it’s time for Nintendo to get in on the action, reporting its first quarter fiscal 2023 (already!) financial results out of Japan today.
Like trends seen at other console manufacturers, Nintendo’s numbers were mixed with a sprinkling of positive highlights and major milestones. The Kyoto-based manufacturer and publisher is experiencing normalization back towards pre-pandemic levels, facing the impact of a high comparable last year, hardware supply challenges, inflationary pressure plus a lighter lineup of summer blockbusters.
During the three months ending June, Switch passed a major milestone in terms of its global unit sales. It’s now become only the third home console ever to surpass the 110 million units shipped threshold, sharing such rarefied air with Sony’s PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 4. Even amidst chip shortages going into its sixth year on market, the Switch is persevering.
Even so, Nintendo’s financials proved to be weaker than the same time last year. Both revenue and operating profit experienced declines, the latter in the double-digit range. Gains due to a weaker yen and Switch OLED’s higher contribution couldn’t outweigh pressure from chip shortages and people returning to experiential spending elsewhere. It’s also important to keep in mind how the last two years have been outliers, in many respects.
“Positive factors included the depreciation of the yen and the addition of Nintendo Switch OLED Model with its high unit price to the hardware lineup,” executives shared in the company’s presentation. “But hardware production was impacted by factors such as the global shortage of semiconductor components, resulting in a decrease in hardware shipments and subsequent decline in overall sales.”
This is partially due to lower software unit sales, as Switch saw less than half as many “million-sellers” in this year’s fiscal Q1. New releases centered on casual sports, as both Nintendo Switch Sports and Mario Strikers: Battle League hit during this window, and both became million-sellers. Kirby and the Forgotten Land continues its excellent performance, becoming the best-selling game ever in the mainline Kirby franchise. Like usual, Nintendo’s software results were bolstered by ongoing momentum from the likes of Mario Kart 8, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and the healthy Ring Fit Adventure.
Nintendo, and I, expected this sort of movement from last year’s highs based on things like the general release slate and various macroeconomic factors. Which is why the company reaffirmed annual guidance around sales, profitability, hardware and software units. I’ll write a bit later about my own forecasts given this framework.
There’s not a moment to waste! It’s time to slide right into the numbers. Get ready for two whole galleries of images, the first from Nintendo’s presentation and the second a grouping of my own charts displaying key financial indicators.
During this April to June time frame, Nintendo generated around $2.37 billion in revenue or 5% lower than last year when measured in local currency. Operating profit totaled $784 million, representing a 15% drop on rising expenses mainly associated with Switch marketing and game development.
It’s a classic mean reversion I’ve written about for similar results recently, a dip towards more normalized spending after two years of substantial boosts from the pandemic. While COVID and its variants are still present, there are more people vaccinated which means they are turning to other types of entertainment outside the house. That is, when they can afford it. People’s hard-earned cash isn’t going as far lately as many countries suffer from the worst inflation in decades.
There’s also the more technical element of yen depreciation, which ends up hurting Japanese companies whose primary business is conducted overseas. This leads into Nintendo’s latest regional breakout which saw 44% from The Americas, a number consistent with last year’s split. Then it’s Europe at 26%, up from 24%. It follows that Japan now represents only 20% of Nintendo’s business, down from 22%. This means that only one-fifth of its revenue is gained locally, meaning a weaker yen has a significant effect on its sales.
Now I’ll dig into product categories underlying Nintendo’s quarterly output. Software and related content comprised 56% of Q1 revenue, up from 53%. It follows that Switch hardware made up the remaining 44%, down compared to the 47% a year ago. What this indicates is hardware is losing ground at a more rapid pace than software, as the latter benefits greatly from ongoing events or downloadable content for legacy titles. If it wasn’t for the Switch OLED model, this skew would be even more towards software.
There are two charts in the below gallery showing the trend of quarterly revenue and profit, where we see the declined compared to recent years however still trending above that from fiscal 2019. Then there’s the two charts which smooth out these results by showing trailing 12-month figures, as I add up the latest four quarters. Trailing annual revenue is right near $13 billion for Nintendo, severely hampered by the yen weakness when converted to dollars. Operating income over the last year is $4.43 billion. This helps keep the overall business in context, rather than focusing strictly on shorter-term movement.
Using these recent annual figures, I’d like to compare Nintendo’s results to industry peers in Tencent, Sony and Microsoft. I will preface this by saying the conversion from yen is really taking a toll on Nintendo and Sony right now. Tencent’s $33 billion in annual gaming revenue is untouchable, though it’s the only one of these that hasn’t reported this quarter and I expect it could decline. Sony’s $21 billion from PlayStation is up next, then Microsoft’s Xbox revenue of $16.22 billion comes in third. If Microsoft’s accounted for Activision Blizzard, which it won’t until next year, it would rival Sony’s output. Which means Nintendo’s revenue is on the lower end at $13 billion. However, Nintendo’s $4.43 billion in operating profit over the last 12 months is higher than PlayStation’s $2.44 billion.
Focusing now on Nintendo’s console business, Switch shipped 3.43 million units globally during the quarter. That’s down 23% from the 4.45 million in Q1 of fiscal 2022. It’s the lowest number of Switch hardware shipments since 3.28 million in January to March 2020.
The base model felt the most precipitous drop, moving down 60% to 1.32 million of the quarterly total. Switch Lite posted a 48% dip, shipping 590K. Which means the Switch OLED model was the best-selling in the family during the last three months, moving 1.52 million boxes. That brings the lifetime total of just Switch OLED to 7.32 million since October 2021. This was precisely Nintendo’s intention, to shift buyers towards the fancy, higher-priced OLED.
Overall, Switch lifetime shipments now total 111.08 million. Compare that to lifetime sales of 89 million at this same time in calendar 2021. In an ironic twist, Switch is now the third home console AND the third portable device to pass the 110 million mark. PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 4 reached 155 million and 117 million, respectively. Separately, on the handheld side, Nintendo’s own Nintendo DS achieved 154 million while Game Boy/Game Boy Color settled at almost 119 million. For now, the PlayStation 4 is in the Switch’s sights, especially since Sony stopped reporting its prior generation hardware figures just this quarter.
As referenced in an earlier slide, sell-through to consumers for the quarter ending June declined for the second year in a row. While the company didn’t specify the exact amount, the trend-line is clear at this point in the life cycle. Especially given the tremendous impact from Animal Crossing: New Horizons back in March 2020, when sell-through of Switch consoles peaked.
Even amidst lower global hardware sales, Switch is still holding up among its counterparts in its biggest market. That’s according to the Q2 2022 report from industry tracking firm The NPD Group, an often cited source here at the site. Switch was the best-selling console in the U.S. during April to June when measured by units, and is still the year’s best-seller by this metric as I wrote earlier in the month. This dynamic makes sense given the Switch’s more attractive pricing and consistent availability at retail, plus supply challenges having an outsized effect on new generation consoles.
Switching over to Nintendo’s software sales for the quarter, it’s a bit brighter than its hardware counterpart. In that it didn’t see as big a decline from a unit standpoint.
Total game shipments in the period ending June declined to 41.4 million, down 9% from the prior year’s 45.29 million. Namely because it was a quiet time for those million-sellers: only four games sold this amount in the period alone, and none of them were from third parties. Compare that to 9 this time a year ago, 7 from Nintendo and the remainder from external partners. So, while there are select titles hitting this threshold, there were less of them amidst a sparse release calendar.
Because of this, lifetime software unit sales for Switch reached 863.59 million. That’s up from 892.18 million back in March, and 587.12 million back in June 2021. Might it cross 900 million by September? (Yes.)
Nintendo decided to kick off the summer with two sports titles during the three months ending June, launching both Nintendo Switch Sports and Mario Strikers: Battle League.
Nintendo Switch Sports scored 4.84 million shipments in its debut quarter. It’s tricky to compare this to prior mainline Sports releases, the last major one being Wii Sports Club in 2014, itself a remake of the original 2006 Wii Sports which launched alongside the ever-popular Wii console. There’s also Wii Sports Resort that released in 2009 at 1.61 million. We could also compare to Wii Fit, which started at 3.6 million. Any way you slice it, it’s a strong start to a title Nintendo expects could keep up momentum over time as more content rolls out.
Mario Strikers: Battle League spent less time on sale after its mid-June launch, shipping 1.91 million copies since. It’s the first mainline Mario Strikers title in 15 years, back when Mario Strikers Charged accumulated 1.71 million in its first quarter. That puts this latest game slightly higher than its predecessor’s initial sales.
The last flagship Switch game of the quarter was Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. This one hit market during the final week of June and is co-published by Koei Tecmo. Nintendo hasn’t publicly shared any results for it just yet.
As for earlier games, Kirby and the Forgotten Land continues its expansion, which is natural for Kirby. It’s scooping up sales left and right, amassing 4.53 million units to date after selling-in another 1.88 million in fiscal Q1. During its first 15 weeks on sale, it’s already sold-through over 4 million copies. That’s the best cumulative sales to consumers ever for the series, already outpacing the lifetime total of 2018’s Kirby Star Allies.
The best-selling first party Switch game list is unchanged at the top. Mario Kart 8, of course, somehow sold another 1.48 million to bring its lifetime total past the 46 million mark, settling at 46.82 million. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is at 39.38 million, while Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fought up to 28.82 million.
Fan favorite Ring Fit Adventure remains in the Top 10 best-selling on the platform, moving 450K units up to 14.54 million. It’s creeping up on a couple Pokémon games, I’d wager it can move into 8th place on the lifetime Switch sellers list by year-end.
Speaking of Pokémon, for 2022 to date in the U.S., Pokémon: Legends Arceus remains on the best-selling premium list, currently catching the third spot as of June. That’s according to The NPD Group, and it doesn’t even include the game’s digital portion. The aforementioned Kirby and the Forgotten Land and Mario Kart 8 are presently 8th and 9th, respectively.
Another growth avenue for Nintendo last quarter was digital sales of software, rising 16% to $679 million. That comes out to roughly 29% of its total revenue. Nintendo also shared that more than half of software sales are now digital, at 53% of the total. This is up from 47% last year, partially due to downloadable content like Animal Crossing: New Horizons Happy Home Paradise and the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack offering.
Unfortunately, there’s no new data on Nintendo Switch Online subscription count. The most recent update from the company was 32 million in September 2021. Management did state that sales from this online service are “showing growth,” just didn’t indicate by how much.
And as we’ve seen many times before, Nintendo’s engagement stats are lacking. Its “Annual Playing Users” metric is now up to 104 million, compared to 102 million last quarter. To me, this doesn’t mean much other than people that buy a Switch turn it on at least once in the last 12 months. Not the most descriptive of metrics.
It’s a decent start to the new fiscal year for Nintendo, seeing drops where expected on the hardware side and maintaining solid results for both new games and ongoing software spending. It’s too early for the forecast to change, even given the amount of uncertainty that exists on the supply side plus game release dates moving around soon.
“Due to delays in the procurement of components such as semiconductors this year, we have not been able to conduct production as planned.” management said. “However, we expect procurement to gradually improve from late summer towards autumn, giving us a clearer outlook regarding production for the remaining calendar year. In preparation for the holiday season, we will leverage appropriate means of shipment, and work to deliver as many Nintendo Switch systems as possible to
consumers in every region.”
As a quick reminder on its guidance, Nintendo anticipates sales will decline in the single digits this fiscal year to roughly $12.34 billion at the current exchange rate, a figure in dollars that could improve if the yen improves. Operating profit is expected to take a bigger hit, dipping 16% to under $3.9 billion. Which would be the lowest result since the pandemic begin, yet still above levels prior to that point.
It’s on the conservative side, which is where I’m at as well. When there’s this many unknowns, both at a macro level and within the games industry, I tend to be cautious. I think it’s prudent for executives to do the same, especially for a company like Nintendo which isn’t as diversified as other consumer technology peers.
I continue to believe there won’t be any substantial new Switch iterations over the next few quarters. Instead, Nintendo should be working more on a successor than a model change. As for units, I’m reiterating my forecast of 20 million to 21 million which is a bit lower than Nintendo’s 21 million guidance. Right now, I’m slightly more bearish than management.
Another portion that Nintendo left unchanged is the guidance of 210 million software units selling in the year ending March 2023. Nintendo reiterated that stance, which I lean towards being a bit high unless a couple key titles hit market in this time frame.
Short term Xenoblade Chronicles 3 launch a few days back. Kirby’s Dream Buffet is a smaller title slated sometime this summer. Next up, there’s a pair of “third in the series” entries in Splatoon 3 and Bayonetta 3, launching in September and October respectively. Out of these, I’m way upbeat on the latter, the first mainline Bayonetta game since 2014.
I expect Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet, which are introducing all new pocket monsters, could potentially break records for early sales for the franchise on Switch and overall upon debuting in November. Granted, there’s been a lot of Pokémon lately. That won’t stop the series from selling, especially when there’s a new generation to collect.
The Legend of Zelda is the proverbial, hm.. wild card of the bunch. Will there be a new version of something like Windwaker soon? Might Nintendo put out a Switch version of Twilight Princess? That would be well and good, and certainly attract demand. It really comes down to whether the fabled Breath of the Wild sequel hits by March 2023. At least for now, it remains listed as Spring 2023 in Nintendo’s reporting. If I was to guess, I’m mildly confident it’s out this fiscal year.
Finally, there’s also Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp and Metroid Prime 4. Both stayed as to-be-announced in Nintendo’s presentation. If anything, I’d wager the former has a better chance of hitting this fiscal year because it was scheduled to be out already. I don’t see the latter until the back half of calendar 2023, the earliest.
With its latest hardware sales milestone and a lot of good games before its life cycle ends, it’s still an exciting time to be a Switch owner. Especially for fans of JRPGs, sports games and Pokémon. Investors may be wearier, though shouldn’t let declines from all-time highs distract from Nintendo still being in its best financial shape since the Wii era.
Thanks for visiting the site and checking out this analysis. Feel free to drop a comment here or on social media. Enjoy the remainder of earnings season everyone!
Note: Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise mentioned. Exchange rate is based on reported average conversion: US $1 to ¥129.66.
Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites, The NPD Group.