Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata Passes Away from Cancer

Unfortunately, Nintendo’s President and CEO, Satoru Iwata, has passed away July 11th, 2015 due to a bile duct growth. The news comes directly from Nintendo, with instructions for the company following his untimely passing.

Born December 6, 1958, Satoru Iwata joined the Nintendo company in 2000, and quickly became President in 2002. In 2013, he became CEO for Nintendo of America, where his presence in both Nintendo Direct’s and Iwata Asks provided news and updates in regards to upcoming Nintendo games and consoles.

Prior to that, Satoru Iwata worked for HAL Laboratory as software coordinator. Games he helped create include Balloon Fight, Earthbound, and Kirby. He eventually became president of HAL Laboratory in 1993.

Satoru Iwata had to miss E3 2014 due to a previous tumor in his bile duct, and unfortunately little more than one year later, a second growth tragically took him at the age of 55.

Our condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Iwata. You can read the official notice from Nintendo, here.

Details of Nintendo’s Next System the ‘NX’

Nintendo’s next generation games system is codenamed NX, the company’s chief executive Satoru Iwata has revealed. Iwata said that the hardware project represents a “brand-new concept”, but didn’t elaborate further.

Speaking at a press conference, Iwata explained: “As proof that Nintendo maintains strong enthusiasm for the dedicated game system business, let me confirm that Nintendo is currently developing a dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept under the development codename ‘NX’. It is too early to elaborate on the details of this project, but we hope to share more information with you next year.”

It is not clear whether the new hardware represents new strides in the handheld or home console business.

However, the new platform appears to be developed in unison with a new membership (or perhaps subscription) service that will unite Nintendo’s home consoles, its handhelds, as well as mobiles and PC.

Iwata clarified that this new membership service will “encompasses the existing Nintendo 3DS and Wii U systems, the new hardware system with a brand-new concept, NX, and smart devices and PCs.”

He added: “Nintendo will be the primary party to operate this new membership service. Unlike the Club Nintendo membership service that Nintendo has been operating, the new membership service will include multiple devices and create a connection between Nintendo and each individual consumer regardless of the device the consumer uses.”

Earlier this year, Nintendo announced that it would be closing its Club Nintendo membership program by September. The loyalty program launched in 2007 and supplied free gifts to owners of the Nintendo DS, Wii, 3DS and Wii U. At the time the company claimed it was “working hard to create a new program.” It appears this new membership service will be its replacement.

Amiibo is doing better than expected

Nintendo has been caught off-guard by the success of its Amiibo line. While it hoped there would be demand for its expansion into the toys-to-life space, the company’s “expectations have been smashed.”

That’s according to Nintendo UK consumer marketing boss James Honeywell, who told MCV, “Right from the outset we hoped that Amiibo would be strong, but even our expectations have been smashed. With a unique lineup of iconic characters that are loved by so many people, it really has been unprecedented.”

There was some question of whether the market would be too crowded for Nintendo to make an impact when it launched Amiibo alongside Super Smash Bros. last year; instead, with 5.7 million sold as of February, its primary problem has been keeping less-common figures in stock.

“We hope to do a better job of satisfying these needs in the future with more stock, and, while there are always going to be some times when we can’t on certain characters, I suspect that is also part of the appeal,” Honeywell continued.

Unfortunately, for many collectors, the tracking down and collecting rare figures has proven to be an exercise in frustration.

Honeywell cites collectors’ desire to get their hands on every Amiibo available as part of the reason for the supply issues. Nintendo has previously said it won’t be able to consistently keep every figure in stock, though it will deliver additional runs of certain figures in select circumstances–something we saw with Marth, for instance.

In addition to sitting on your shelf, Amiibo serve a purpose in various games, including Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 8, and Code Name: Steam. Check out GameSpot’s huge list of Amiibo’s!

Nintendo’s getting into the health biz

Nintendo revealed first details about its health-focused QOL platform, which stands for “quality of life,” announcing a new sensor that monitors and analyzes you while you sleep.

In a presentation, Nintendo described the QOL device as having “five ‘non’ sensing” features: It will be non-wearable, non-contact (meaning it doesn’t need to touch your body), non-operating, non-waiting and non-installation. Essentially, the device is designed to operate on its own, without much set-up.

The QOL device is designed to monitor a user during sleep. Using radio waves, the device reads a user’s movement, heart rate, respiration and fatigue, and sends that data to servers to be analyzed. The QOL system will connect with smart devices and “dedicated video game devices,” presumably Nintendo’s Wii U and 3DS systems, via the cloud. Services designed to improve health and quality of life, through diet and exercise, for example, will be part of the QOL system.

QOL Nintendo

Nintendo is partnering with U.S.-based ResMed, a manufacturer of “medical equipment for treating, diagnosing and managing sleep-disordered breathing and other respiratory disorders.” Its QOL device is slated to launch sometime in 2016.

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata announced the company’s plans to expand its business into the health market earlier this year, with the hopes that it can improve “quality of life through entertainment.”

“[D]efining a new entertainment business that seeks to improve (quality of life) creates various possibilities for the future such as ‘learning’ and ‘lifestyle,’ but it is our intention to take ‘health’ as our first step,” Iwata said at the time. “We wish to achieve an integrated hardware-software platform business that, instead of providing mobile or wearable features, will be characterized by a new area of what we like to call ‘non-wearable’ technology.

Iwata said Nintendo planned to go beyond what it attempted with exercise software Wii Fit, and was “considering themes that we have not incorporated to games for our existing platforms” with the aim to create a new market.

“What is generally good for health requires some kind of effort to be made by the individual,” Iwata said. “This is where our strength as an entertainment company to keep our consumers engaged and entertained comes into play, assisted by the non-wearable feature, which is the biggest differentiator of this new business field, as well as user experiences that integrate into people’s daily lives, all of which help us overcome this difficulty. If we do indeed succeed in doing so, we will be able to provide feedback to our consumers on a continual basis, and our approach will be to redefine the notion of health-consciousness, and eventually increase the fit population.

“While we feel that this is going to take two to three years after its launch, we expect the QOL-improving platform to provide us with new themes which we can then turn into games that operate on our future video game platforms, too,” he said. “Once we have established such a cycle, we will see continuous positive interactions between the two platforms that enable us to make unique propositions.”

Nintendo makes surprise return to profit

Nintendo achieved a surprise return to profit in its second quarter following four years of annual losses. The Japanese firm credits new games and a weaker yen for an improved performance in its second quarter.

The corporation has made $132 million in profit for the six months ending in September, marking a significant upward swing from the $91 million loss it announced during the first three months of the period.

Analysts were far off the mark in their projections, with many expecting Nintendo would announce a multi-billion-yen loss for the quarter. The strong performance could be instrumental by April, with Nintendo hoping to bring an end to its four-year run of annual losses.

Responsible for the success in particular was the “extremely strong initial sales” of Super Smash Bros for 3DS, which has shipped 3.2 million units globally already since its mid-September release. In addition, the eccentric life sim Tomodachi Life has sold about 1.3 million units worldwide since its release.

Meanwhile, Wii U hardware sales have more than doubled in the past six months, though that’s in comparison to the system’s dismal performance during the same period last year.

During the six months to September, Nintendo has sold 1.1 million Wii U consoles worldwide. During the same period last year, it had only sold about 460,000 units.

In terms of software, Nintendo shipped 9.4 million Wii U games. The corporation did not specify further, only adding that Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors performed “steadily”.

However, 3DS hardware sales are down significantly. During the April-September quarter, Nintendo sold about 2 million 3DS systems, compared to the 3.9 million units it sold during the same period last year. In terms of software, Nintendo sold about 233 million 3DS games during the six months, which again represents a decrease from the 273 million it sold during the same half-year period in 2013.

Wii hardware sales sunk further as Nintendo discontinues the console across many territories.