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Steady revisions improve Nintendo's handheld biz

Nintendo's handheld hardware shipments have rebounded slightly, the first sustained turnaround in three years.

Nintendo has released its results for the quarter ending 30 June 2015, and it shows that there has been a slight rebound in the company's shipments of handheld consoles. I have put together the interactive figure below to help you visualize where the company has come from in the past decade of hardware sales.

As ususal, let me remind you that each data point on a figure showing TTM (trailing 12-month) data really represents the data from the prior 12-month period. This smooths out the seasonal variations, and allows us to see longer-term trends more easily.

It was mid-2012 when Nintendo last saw its handheld business headed up instead of down. Around that time, I wrote the following:

Nintendo's bugbear, Apple, continues to roll out annual hardware revisions to its iPhone and iPad devices each year and successive devices have immediate access to an App Store stuffed with software developed for previous hardware models.

Nintendo appears to have taken a page from Apple's book, and is now doing annual hardware revisions of its own, all while maintaining compatibility with a vast library of software and gradually building the means to sell that software direct to consumers through an online store.

While Nintendo had done hardware revisions before, I felt at the time that they might be doing something more than just the occasional upgrade. And, in fact, there has been a new model out almost every year for quite a while now:

  • Nintendo DSi - November 2008 in Japan, April 2009 elsewhere
  • Nintendo DSi XL - November 2009 in Japan, March 2010 elsewhere
  • Nintendo 3DS - February to March 2011 worldwide
  • Nintendo 3DS XL - July to August 2012 worldwide
  • Nintendo 2DS - October 2013 in U.S. and Europe
  • New Nintendo 3DS - October 2014 in Japan, November 2014 in Australia and New Zealand, January 2015 in Europe and North America

Suggestive, isn't it? I wouldn't be surprised one bit if they had another revision right around the corner. The real question is, where do they go next?

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