By Takashi Mochizuki
This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (September 21, 2019).
TOKYO -- Nintendo Co. introduced a stripped-down Switch console, meant to keep up the line's momentum in its third holiday season, as the videogame maker seeks to widen the Nintendo brand's global presence.
Coming attractions include a Nintendo-themed area at Universal Studios parks in Orlando, Fla., and Osaka, Japan, as well as the company's first store in Japan and a fitness gadget.
The Kyoto-based company faces a renewed challenge next year from competitors Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp., both of which are expected to introduce successors to their flagship consoles.
"We want to increase the number of opportunities for many customers to have contact with Nintendo's intellectual property," said Nintendo's president, Shuntaro Furukawa, earlier this year.
The $200 Switch Lite, which went on sale globally Friday, is missing some features of the regular $300 Switch. It doesn't connect to a TV set and lacks detachable controllers.
The Lite is aimed at casual gamers who might be attracted by rival services that don't require a dedicated machine. Apple Inc. this month introduced a subscription-based game service called Arcade for its iPhones, while Alphabet Inc.'s Google is set to start its Stadia game service later this year.
Suggesting Nintendo's eagerness to capture the low end of the market, suppliers say the company aggressively tried to cut costs and weighed a price tag below $200. An executive at one supplier said it battled Nintendo for months over the price of a key component.
Separately, Nintendo added a new lithium-ion battery supplier, Murata Manufacturing Co., according to a person involved in the deal. Murata purchased Sony Corp.'s battery business in 2017. By having Murata compete with Nintendo's main battery supplier, TDK Corp., Nintendo hopes to lower costs, this person said. Nintendo declined to comment.
Murata executive Norio Nakajima said in August, without naming Nintendo: "We got a new videogame client, a client that this unit would never have been able to get when it was owned by Sony."
Nintendo hopes the Switch Lite can follow the path of its hand-held DS and 3DS machines, which are nearing retirement. The devices have been popular in Japan, though less so in the U.S., and have sold more than 229 million units.
Nintendo's main Switch machine is entering its third holiday season since its introduction in March 2017. Investors are watching whether Nintendo can avoid a falloff, and so far they like what they see. Nintendo's share price is up 46% this year, pushing the company's market capitalization above $50 billion.
As of June, Nintendo sold a cumulative 37 million Switch units, of which 15 million were sold in North America. Nintendo projects global sales of 18 million units in the year ending March 2020.
Next month, Nintendo will start selling "Ring Fit Adventure," a game that comes with ring-shaped controller and leg band. Players use the gadgets, which work only with the $300 Switch console, to work out and beat in-game enemies. The game's predecessors, "Wii Fit" and "Wii Fit Plus," sold more than 40 million copies in total.
While beefing up its lineup of videogame hardware and peripherals, Nintendo is also about to see the fruits of an effort to license its characters more widely. For decades, it was reluctant to let characters such as Super Mario roam too far from their videogame homes, but it switched course a few years ago. Plans hatched then are now getting rolled out.
A Nintendo-themed area will open at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka next spring, said Tom Williams, head of the Comcast Corp. unit Universal Parks & Resorts. Mr. Williams said at a conference this month that "Super Nintendo World" will initially host two rides, one featuring the racing game "Mario Kart" and another spotlighting Yoshi, a dinosaur character spun out of the Mario franchise.
Mr. Williams said Nintendo areas are also planned for Universal parks in Orlando; Universal City, Calif., and Singapore. Comcast and Nintendo are also working on an animated movie.
In Tokyo, a Nintendo merchandise store will open in the Shibuya area in November. It is the first such store in Japan and the second in the world after one at New York's Rockefeller Center.
Write to Takashi Mochizuki at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 21, 2019 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.