Nintendo financials disappoint, leaked Wii U game footage delights [video]

Nintendo was all over the news at the tail end of last week, so I thought I'd take a few minutes and catch up with it all.

Let's get the bad news out of the way first. The company posted its annual financial figures, and as anticipated came up short. Sites like Reuters are saying this is the first ever operating loss for the company. Considering Nintendo was established in 1889 as a company that manufactured Hanafuda cards (Japanese playing cards, basically) that's a bold claim. I suspect they mean since becoming a public company, but I'm just being a gamer nerd now.

Anyway, the company closed its fiscal year with a loss of $458 million, blaming the deficit in part on the soft yen but also acknowledging a drop-off in sales of the Nintendo Wii gaming console, and the impact of having to cut the cost of the Nintendo 3DS to a point where the company is losing money on each sale (a common practice for Sony and Microsoft when they launch new hardware, but unusual for Nintendo). The company expects to turn things around this year with the launch of the new Wii U and continued growth of the 3DS market.

While a $438 million loss sounds bad, it pales in comparison to Sony's $6.4 billion annual loss. Of course Sony is a much larger company with many branches, but still... The good news is that Nintendo has ample cash reserves to help it weather this particular storm.

Anyway let's talk about the Wii U. You can expect to see a ton of news and demo reels from the new system at the E3 show in June, but Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata says one bit of information we won't learn at the show is the price. I'm not sure what to make of this. It could be they're still finalizing pricing, but I fear they're worried about reaction to the price and that they'd rather build hype around the system and the games coming for it without the cloud of a high price hanging over everyone's head. Maybe I'm just being a pessimist.

Iwata did share the welcome news that new Wii U games will be available both at retail and digitally, and select 3DS games will also start becoming available digitally at launch.

Next up is a crazy rumor from DroidGamers: they're saying the Wii U is running Android in some fashion. I suppose the most obvious facet is that the tablet-esque controller might use aspects of Android for its UI? To be frank, even DroidGamer seems pretty dubious about this rumor, but it was so odd that I thought it'd be worth sharing.

My recollection from the initial reveal of the Wii U is that the tablet controller is more of a dumb terminal than anything. When the Wii U is shut down, the tablet controller is just an inert hunk of plastic and glass, so don't start thinking you're getting an Android tablet as a bonus when you buy a Wii U!

Saving the most fun news for last, French publication Gamekult leaked a gameplay trailer for Ubisoft's Rayman Legends game for the Wii U. Rayman Legends is a 2D platformer so we don't get any idea of the 3D rendering capabilities of the Wii U, but we know it sure can handle nice looking 2D! Also towards the end of the video (embedded below) we see some NFC interactions between plastic toys and the Wii U's tablet controller. Obviously Ubisoft is seeing all the cash Activision is raking in on Skylanders and wants a piece of that pie!

In response to the leak, Ubisoft released this statement:

"An internal video showing images of Rayman Origins' sequel has leaked over the Internet. This video was intended as a purely internal demonstrative video, and in NO way represents the final game, the final console or their features. This video was destined for internal production teams who often create game prototypes with work in progress development kits. Ubisoft confirms the development of Rayman Legends handled by Michel Ancel and his team in Montpellier."

I don't think Ubisoft has too much to be worried about. The game looks pretty darned good to me, final or not. What do you think?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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