Nintendo Co. fell the most in a month after delaying the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons till next year, postponing a marquee holiday title that could have supported the launch of a cheaper Switch console.
Its shares dropped as much as 2.8% in Tokyo, the most on an intraday basis since May 8. The game was pushed to March 2020, the company said in an online video Tuesday. Nintendo reaffirmed that another big 2019 title — Luigi’s Mansion 3 — is on schedule but failed to provide a release date. The 40-minute video, broadcast during the E3 game expo in Los Angeles this week, also highlighted support for the Switch from publishers and teased a sequel to mega-hit The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Despite the delay, the Switch still sports an impressive lineup for 2019, an improvement from a year ago when a poor showing at E3 preceded a tough year for shareholders. Nintendo had been up 34% this year through Tuesday — outpacing many of its rivals — as new titles and expectations for additional hardware boost confidence that the company can navigate big changes in the industry.
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons was originally slated for release in 2019. That it will now go on sale after the Christmas shopping season is mildly disappointing,” Citigroup analysts Minami Munakata and Yui Shoji said in a report. “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has an extremely strong reputation, particularly among hardcore gamers, so future developments related to the sequel bear watching.”
In Tuesday’s video, Nintendo didn’t say when the sequel to Breath of the Wild could be released. It confirmed that a remake of an older Zelda title — Link’s Awakening — will launch Sept. 20. New third-party games included The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, set for a 2019 release. The Switch-exclusive Astral Chain will also be released Aug. 30. No new games were shown for the 3DS or mobile platforms.
“The 1H pipeline looks beefier to us than it did last year,” Morgan Stanley analysts Masahiro Ono and Yui Yasumoto said in a report. “The announcement of release dates for major titles, where Nintendo had so far only given a general timeframe, is a positive.”
Still, another delay of a key title is a worry for investors after the company this year pushed back the releases of mobile game Mario Kart Tour and Switch exclusive Metroid Prime 4. That prompted a barrage of criticism as analysts questioned the company’s approach to software development.
On the hardware front, Nintendo didn’t mention a new Switch, which Bloomberg News reported was likely to launch this month. Executives said in April that new hardware wouldn’t be shown at E3.
The video-game industry is undergoing structural changes, as faster network speeds make it possible to play games via the cloud or internet, bypassing the need for consumers to own consoles. That’s opening the door to new entrants like Google and forcing longtime rivals Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. to explore collaboration even as both prepare to launch new hardware next year.
Kyoto-based Nintendo has a spotty history with online play and was a decade behind rivals in releasing a paid subscription service. It didn’t make any cloud-related announcements on Tuesday and its experience with cloud gaming is limited to a partnership with Taiwanese startup Ubitus Inc., which began streaming a few games to Switch users in Japan last year. The service hasn’t taken off and executives haven’t said if they plan to expand it globally.