Next up for this quarters’ recap series, as you clearly know from bookmarking my earnings calendar, is Nintendo. The gaming company that continues to delight audiences and defy expectations.
The Japanese console manufacturer and mega publisher reported figures for the nine months ending December 2023, the third quarter of its fiscal year ending March 2024. Which means I have plenty to break down including quarterly, nine month and trailing annual numbers. A little bit of everything!
Nintendo’s quarterly financial results were down slightly in Q3, however its 9-month figure remains trending upwards during this likely final full year of the Switch’s life cycle.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder was the big winner of the quarter, moving nearly 12 million units as the fastest-selling Super Mario title in series history. Over the April to December span, The Super Mario Bros. Movie and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom were doing heavy lifting along with additional content for its suite of legacy titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 3.
Nintendo shipped upwards of 6.9 million Switch units during the December quarter, and without official discounting at market. While down a bit since last year, that’s a healthy result for a console that saw its first holiday season back in 2017. This pushed lifetime shipments to nearly 140 million, steadily approaching the realm of all time behemoths like Nintendo DS and PlayStation 2.
“When we look at the sales situation so far this fiscal year against this backdrop, we believe that hardware sales have held stable since the first half and that the holiday season results were steady,” Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa said in a Q&A.
“We want to maintain momentum in the business through a good balance of both first-time buyers and demand for multiple units. During the holiday season, we noted a particular rise in first-time buyers of our hardware, and we see this as a positive sign for the Nintendo Switch business going forward.”
All of this led management to raise full year guidance yet again, similar to last quarter, for a number of things: sales, profit, hardware and software, in addition to a dividend hike that will return more profits to shareholders. I’ll cover these in more detail in a later section.
Now to the question on everyone’s mind: Where’s that Switch Pro? (Oh no, not again.)
Really, check below as I’ll fully cover the company’s report then drop a set of predictions, including my latest forecast on when the Switch’s successor will be out. Let’s jump into it!
I’ll now dig into the above slides and below charts, which cover all of the numbers Nintendo released during its third quarter 2024 announcement.
Overall, the firm generated $4.18 billion in profit during the three months ending December 2023. That equates to a 6% decline. Operating profit dipped 3% to $1.29 billion.
Across the latest three quarters, net sales grew 8% to $9.74 billion while operating profit rose an impressive 13% to $3.24 billion.
These can be attributed to the yen’s continued weakness overseas, a higher proportion of Switch OLED model shipments compared to the broader family of devices plus add-on content for its more evergreen titles. Not to mention having one of 2023’s biggest movies based on a world-renowned brand, I might add.
Expanding to latest annualized figure, which ends up being the 2023 calendar year number, revenue moved up 7% to $12.53 billion. That’s the best calendar year revenue number for Nintendo since 2008! Operating income bumped up even more, settling at $4.09 billion or an increase of 10%.
These growth numbers are all fantastic for a company that will likely move into its next generation of consoles within the next six to twelve months, and highlights the smart move by executives to diversify into different areas like digital support, intellectual property (IP) adaptation, online services and post-launch content drops.
Moving onto product categories, Nintendo’s hardware and software each contributed exactly 50% during the third quarter. This split last year was 51% and 49%, in favor of hardware. Across the 9-month period, the software slice was larger at 55% of the total. At the same time last year, it was 54%. Not too much movement in either direction over the last couple years.
With respect to regional splits, the latest nine months continued a slight shift away from Japan and towards The United States and its neighbors. The Americas made up 44% of sales, up from 43%. Europe remained flat around 25%, while Japan declined from 24% to 21%.
The digital portion of Nintendo’s sales during Q1 to Q3 moved up a couple percentage points to 48%, fitting the industry trend towards downloads as opposed to retail buying. Digital came in around a quarter of the company’s revenue stream, growing 12% in the last nine months to $2.42 billion.
Here’s where Nintendo stacks up against the industry’s biggest players. First, yen weakness does have a positive impact on revenue in local currency for companies that mainly operate globally, like a Nintendo or Sony. However when converting from yen to U.S. dollar, it doesn’t appear as attractive because of the low rate. Sony, which reports gain next week, had PlayStation at $28 billion annually while Tencent stacked up to $26 billion. Microsoft’s integration of Activision Blizzard brought it to $18.13 billion this quarter, while Nintendo comes in under $13 billion. However, Nintendo’s operating margins are best in industry, even while developing a new hardware.
Focusing strictly on Switch hardware shipments, these totaled 6.9 million during October to December. Compare that to 8.23 million the prior year.
Which is excellent for a console that’s saturated its market as much as Switch has. For context, I estimated that Microsoft shipped 4 million max Xbox Series X|S this holiday. Sony moved 7.1 million PlayStation 5’s in the quarter ending December 2023.
That brought hardware units to 13.74 million during the first nine months of this fiscal year, down 8% from 14.91 million. Management noted this was mostly in-line with expectations for the time frame.
As has been the case for a couple years, the predominant model during this period was the Switch OLED. That version shipped 8.17 million between April and December, up 6% from 7.69 million. Next up was the base model at 3.4 million, down 25% from the prior year’s 5.22 million. Rounding out the list was Lite, which grew 9% year-on-year from 2 million to 2.18 million.
So, this all brings Switch lifetime sales to 139.36 million. Is there a legit chance it clears the Nintendo DS at 154.02 million to become the company’s best-selling device ever? The answer is: absolutely.
Switch is under 15 million away from Nintendo DS. If the company’s target holds this fiscal year, it would need 13 million more during the financial period beginning in April. I am betting that, by the end of March 2025, not only will Switch be Nintendo’s best-selling ever, it will surpass PlayStation 2 at 155 million to secure the top spot on the all-time top seller list. Even if Super Switch exists!
Back to the latest announcement, Nintendo did share some insight into hardware sell-through to consumers. Namely that it’s been steady for the console’s age, and that the OLED version saw increased demand, echoing the growth seen in shipments. And it wasn’t just first timers, there were plenty of people who double dipped or grabbed replacements, according to prepared remarks.
Now swapping over to Nintendo’s other bread-and-butter which is software sales, this is where the team has shined the entire back half of this generation with both new games and existing support.
For the holiday quarter, software unit shipments for Switch totaled 66.87 million. That’s down only 14%. Expanding to the April to December period, unit sales for software dipped 5% to 163.95 million. Considering the saturation and how many titles it’s already moved, that year-to-date figure showed great resilience.
The proportion of first party titles, those published by Nintendo, rose from 79% to 83% in the nine months ending December. That’s more than four out of every five games purchased in this period, namely due to flagship Zelda and Mario launches plus a mainline Pikmin.
How’s about yet another lifetime milestone for the Switch’s historic run? Just this quarter, lifetime unit sales on the platform surpassed 1.2 billion. The strength of its portfolio is unrivaled even compared to prior Nintendo generations, plus there’s the legacy library via Switch Online, broad attraction of franchises like Animal Crossing and third party offerings like Fortnite.
Speaking of big sellers, Switch now has 24 “million-seller” titles which shipped a million units or more in the latest nine months alone. Within that, 17 were first party and 7 were external publishers. Compare this to last year’s 27 overall, and it’s another example of the platform’s appeal.
The elephant in the room was Super Mario Bros. Wonder, not just shipping 11.96 million but also selling-through 10.7 million of those to consumers. For comparison to recent franchise titles in their respective first quarters: Super Mario Odyssey had 9.07 million in 2017, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe reached 2.5 million in 2019 and 2021’s Super Mario 3D World + Bower’s Fury saw 5.59 million. Keep in mind the lower install bases at this times, of course.
Elsewhere, new launch in Super Mario RPG Remake shipped 3.14 million since hitting market in November, another benefactor of the Switch effect. July’s Pikmin 4 also hit the 3 million milestone, moving up 720K units to 3.33 million.
After an incredible run since May, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom reached the 20 million milestone this quarter, settling at 20.28 million. While it’s slowed in recent months, it’s still a ridiculous feat to hit this sort of threshold in less than a year.
One one that seems to never slow down is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which zoomed past the frankly absurd 60 million milestone this quarter. After somehow shipping 3.57 million in the holiday quarter, it’s held pace at 60.58 million. That’s well above the second place on the platform in Animal Crossing: New Horizons at 44.79 million. I don’t know how Nintendo can top this latest Mario Kart entry, and I don’t envy the designers that have to make its follow-up.
The last statistic revolved around engagement, as Nintendo announced a record 122 million Annual Playing Users as of December, up from 114 million last year. While this isn’t as indicative of active players as something like monthly or daily active users, it does show that buyers at least login to their devices over the years. Separately, Nintendo didn’t share any updates on Switch Online subscribers, last reported at 38 million in September 2023.
Between a nice holiday quarter, the financial growth in the first nine months of fiscal 2024, the fastest-selling Super Mario ever, major milestones for its biggest franchises, diversifying into film and other media plus revitalizing classics to close the cycle, Nintendo’s latest run continued in this earnings report as Switch approaches its seventh birthday next month.
To say it’s exceeded all expectations, and continues to prove analysts wrong, is an understatement.
Before closing out, let’s look at that updated guidance and make a few predictions. Management revised a number of forecasts upward, including financial targets and unit sales expectations.
The firm now expects 3% more net sales and 2% better operating profit during the fiscal year ending March 2024. That translates to roughly $11.4 billion and $3.56 billion, respectively. This indicates Nintendo expects both of these to grow in the single digits, and I expect them to be achieved. If not exceeded by a decent margin.
On hardware, according to Furukawa commenting after the company’s announcement, the Switch will remain its “main business” through the end of March and into the new fiscal year. In fact, he called out internet rumors and asked people to “exercise good judgment” when hearing them.
Fitting with this sentiment, the company raised Switch unit guidance by 500K to 15.5 million. That implies the January to March quarter to have only 1.76 million shipped in order to reach this goal. Personally, I’ve been predicting the 16 million to 16.5 million range for this year. I see no reason to change that now, and I’m even leaning towards the upper end of this range.
The real question on everyone’s mind is the Super Switch! Mainly when, and how much. Executives are playing coy for now, as expected.
“We are unable to make any comments beyond saying that our company is constantly conducting research and development on new hardware and software,” Furukawa said.
There were some small hints in his latest Q&A series posted today. Furukawa pointed out the hybrid model is the “optimal way” to deliver Nintendo’s unique experiences. That all but confirms the successor will have both handheld and console functionality, consistent with recent speculation that’s pointed to a larger screen in portable mode.
I’ve written before that my forecast puts Super Switch in the fourth quarter this calendar year. I’ll also stick to this, expecting an initial announcement after Nintendo’s current financial year ends, so as to not jeopardize hitting that hardware target. This puts a reveal in April or May, then more details and presentations leading into launch around October.
Management also bumped up its software expectations by 3% for the full year, now guiding that Switch will have 190 million units shipped in that period alone. This feels on the money, with slight upside to beat it.
The current slate features one brand new title Prince Peach: Showtime!, a more niche title launching in March that I think will do alright yet not gangbusters. There’s also the remake of Mario vs Donkey Kong out next week. Between these and continued interest in Super Mario Bros. Wonder among others, I’m not worried about Nintendo reaching its more optimistic guidance.
Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess because Nintendo hasn’t shared much for its offerings beyond a pair of revitalized old games in Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD, on the calendar for Summer 2024, and the pending Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door remake sometime this year. Metroid Prime 4 remains a mystery, the only title in its financial report listed as to be announced.
One title that probably won’t hit Switch anytime soon is Palworld, what with The Pokémon Company’s investigation into 2024’s biggest sales surprise so far for potential IP breach and asset usage. While I’m not sure that a legal battle will ensue, I’m sure it will remain on other platforms for the foreseeable future.
That does it for my latest earnings recap. I’ll be back soon with more coverage of the season and other topics as 2024 keeps it moving. Be well, all!
Note: Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted. Exchange rate is based on reported average conversion: US $1 to ¥143.22.
Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites, Video Games Chronicle.