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Dolphin Delay: 2001

by Billy Berghammer - May 26, 2000, 5:47 am PDT

Despite what Nintendo has said, it looks like Dolphin won't be released anywhere until 2001. More inside...

That little yellow bastard will save us! Here's that big announcement you...uh...wanted to hear. Um, is this it? Didn't we pretty much know all of this already? Booooo! Nintendo still says Dolphin will launch in Japan this year. (Then people in the press conference suddenly started coughing, "BullS$%t!!"...in Japanese of course) Rumors from this article believe Nintendo to launch Dolphin in March of 2001 in Japan. Does that mean the US Launch will be at the same time in March? Or fall 2001? Why am I getting N64 release flashbacks? My personal belief is that the software (Mario, etc) isn't ready yet. That's why they aren't giving any specifics on release, etc. What do you think? Stop on by the comments area and let us know!

TOKYO, May 26 (Reuters) - Annual profits at major Japanese video game maker Nintendo Co Ltd shrank 35 percent in the last year as the strong yen swallowed up earnings from robust sales of its hit ``Pokemon'' game software.

But the maker of world's most popular hand-held game machine, Game Boy, forecast on Friday a sharp profit recovery in the year starting on April 1, buoyed by expected windfall sales from its Game Boy and Pokemon software titles.

In the year to March, consolidated net profit hit 56.1 billion yen ($521 million), from 85.8 billion yen a year earlier, squeezed by a rise in the yen against the dollar that eroded 62 billion yen from the value of overseas sales and assets.

Nintendo earned 76.7 percent of its total sales from overseas markets last year. In addition, slack sales of its 64-bit home video console Nintendo64 slashed total group sales by 7.4 percent to 530.7 billion yen, it said.

The result was below analysts estimates of around 60 billion yen, but its profit projections were more upbeat than expected.

Nintendo forecast a 46.3 percent jump in group net profit to 82 billion yen with sales rising 1.8 percent to 540 billion yen, citing strength in the Game Boy, including a next-generation version of the console, Game Boy Advance, due later this year.

Shares in Nintendo, however, closed on Friday down 3.72 percent at 15,550 yen, hurt by overall weakness in the Tokyo stock market.

FOCUS ON GAME BOY

For the year just ended, Nintendo sold 17.45 million Game Boy consoles worldwide, including 13.27 million overseas, representing a 34 percent increase over the previous year.

Nintendo, which has staked a 90 percent share of the hand-held game market in Japan and 99 percent in the United States and Europe, generated 44 percent of its total revenue from the Game Boy business last year.

Game Boy software sales jumped 61 percent to 67.71 million units, benefitting from its hit Pokemon or Pocket Mosters game characters, a craze among children worldwide.

Sales of Pokemon software rose to 8.22 million units at home and 19.11 million units.

``The worldwide Pokemon boom enhanced sales of the Game Boy Colour console,'' Nintendo director and general manager Hiroshi Imanishi told a news conference.

``We plan to raise monthly output of the console to 2.5 million units by year-end from the current 1.5 million units''.

With sales of its Nintendo64-related products slumping, analysts expect the bulk of profits to continue coming from Game Boy, although the foreign exchange factor remains a risk.

``The main profit generator for Nintendo is now Game Boy,'' said Hirotoshi Murakami, analyst at Kokusai Securities. ``For kids, Game Boy with software like Pokemon series offers more fun than beautiful images that Sony's PlayStation2 offers''.

UNCERTAINTY ON DOLPHIN LAUNCH

Nintendo also plans to release its new 128-bit home video game machine Dolphin late this year in Japan in swipe back at the popularity of rival Sony Corp's PlayStation2 console.

But Nintendo's sales forecast do not include Dolphin sales, Imanishi said, underlining a possible launch delay.

Asked whether the firm will launch Dolphin as planned, he said: ``We will announce details at our show in August.''

Analysts expect any delay in Dolphin to have only a minor impact on Nintendo's profit recovery.

``The release may be put off to March or later,'' Morgan's Morita said. ``But that would not cause huge damage because it is anticipated the company will do well this year with its attractive software line-ups for Nintendo64 and Game Boy''.

Nintendo and other video game makers are facing fierce competition after Sony launched PlayStation2 in March.

The rivalry is expected to continue in overseas markets as Sony releases the 128-bit PlayStation2 in the United States and Europe on October 26, followed by U.S. Microsoft Corp's (NasdaqNM:MSFT - news) entry in late 2001 with its first game machine X-box.

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