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Nintendo appoints new chief with switch console on solid ground

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Nintendo Co appointed Shuntaro Furukawa, a relatively young and unknown senior executive as its new president, after reporting that profits are on track to be the highest since 2010 after a year of solid Switch gaming machine sales.

[TOKYO] Nintendo Co appointed Shuntaro Furukawa, a relatively young and unknown senior executive as its new president, after reporting that profits are on track to be the highest since 2010 after a year of solid Switch gaming machine sales.

He'll replace Tatsumi Kimishima, a former banker who last year oversaw the debut of the new console, the Kyoto-based company's biggest bet in years. For the fiscal year through next March, Nintendo forecast profit of 225 billion yen (S$2.7 billion). While that would be the most in eight years, it was below analysts' average estimate for 308.6 billion yen. Nintendo typically posts conservative guidance, and this is no exception.

Furukawa, 46, joined Nintendo in 1994 and worked in global marketing, as well at Pokemon Co, which is partly owned by Nintendo. He takes over as the strong results and outlook underscore Nintendo's confidence that it has worked out the Switch's first-year production kinks and can attract buyers from beyond the hybrid console's core base. While the company had a strong lineup of games last year to drive hardware sales and this month introduced Labo cardboard accessories designed to broaden the product's appeal, it only has one new big-name title - Super Smash Bros. - scheduled for release this year.

"We will develop the company to its fullest," Mr Furukawa said at a news conference in Osaka. "I will balance Nintendo's traditions: originality and flexibility." A graduate of Waseda University, Mr Furukawa worked for about 10 years in Germany, according to the Nikkei newspaper. While he spent much of his tenure at the company's accounting office, rising to head Nintendo's corporate planning division in 2015, Mr Furukawa has also contributed to software development and was involved in the making of the Switch.

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Operating profit was 21.1 billion yen in the latest quarter, compared with analysts' average projection for 20.2 billion yen. Nintendo forecast 20 million Switch shipments for the year.

"No other console in recent history offered such an array of blockbusters in the first 12 months after launch," Serkan Toto, founder of Tokyo-based games consultancy Kantan Games Inc. "But the Switch absolutely needs more mega hit games in 2018." Last year's numerous blockbuster hits include such as Zelda, Super Mario, Mario Kart and Splatoon 2. That raises the stakes for products like Nintendo Labo, which the company sees as key to broadening the Switch appeal beyond initial adopters. So far, analyst reception to the Labo has been mixed.

Nintendo said it sold 63.5 million software titles for the Switch in the prior year, above its estimate for 53 million. It expects to sell 100 million in the coming year.

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