Shareholder pushes Nintendo to join mobile gaming race

HONG KONG Wed Feb 26, 2014 11:55am GMT

A logo of Nintendo Co is seen on the company's Wii U game console at the company headquarters in Kyoto, western Japan January 7, 2013. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

A logo of Nintendo Co is seen on the company's Wii U game console at the company headquarters in Kyoto, western Japan January 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao

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HONG KONG (Reuters) - Seth Fischer, one of Asia's best-known hedge fund managers, has written to Nintendo Co Ltd urging the Japanese console maker to develop and sell games for mobile platforms run by Apple Inc and Google Inc.

Fischer, of Hong Kong-based Oasis Management Co Ltd, sent a similar letter in June to Nintendo, in which Oasis owns shares. His latest missive adds to investor pressure for the company to move on from making games only for its propriety consoles.

Some investors want Nintendo, which recently slashed its sales forecast for the Wii U console, to capitalise on the spread of smartphones and tablets by releasing games that can be played on any mobile device.

"Nintendo needs to embrace this thematic change in consumer demand, behaviour and expectations to stay relevant," said Fischer, Oasis' chief investment officer, in a letter on Wednesday obtained by Reuters.

Fischer, who once managed $3.3 billion (1.9 billion pounds) for DKR Soundshore Oasis Fund, opened his own hedge fund in 2011 which manages about $200 million.

"It is readily apparent that the standard elasticity of demand principle no longer applies in the consumer entertainment market when access requires the purchase of a physical product," Fischer said in the letter to Nintendo Chief Executive Satoru Iwata.

DIGGING IN

Nintendo has dug in its heels on a game console strategy that has dragged it into operating losses for three years in a row, ignoring calls to go mobile and promising instead to wow customers with health-related innovations.

Unlike rivals Microsoft Corp and Sony Corp, whose recently released XBox One and PlayStation 4 have seen strong sales, the creator of "Super Mario" has resisted pressure to open up game development to other firms.

"We consider individual requests separately within the company but I don't think we would announce the results thereof," a Nintendo spokesman said in response to Fischer's letter.

The spokesman declined to comment directly on any consideration Nintendo may have given to Fischer's request.

Fischer could not be reached for comment.

Nintendo relies on the popularity of its franchises, such as Mario and Zelda, to drive sales of its hardware, but investors fear Nintendo is missing out on opportunities offered by smartphones or tablets, over 1 billion of which are in use and account for a rising proportion of games played.

Mobile games developer King, for example, generated $1.9 billion in revenues in 2013, or $5 million a day, from its game Candy Crush Saga which has been downloaded more than 500 million times since its 2012 launch.

The importance of mobile platforms for technology companies was driven home last week by Facebook Inc's $19 billion purchase of messaging app WhatsApp, which followed a similar acquisition by Rakuten Inc the week before.

"As the holder of what is arguably the largest library of casual games, Nintendo is well placed to make an immediate entry into mobile," Fischer said.

(Additional reporting by Reiji Murai in TOKYO and Denny Thomas in HONG KONG,; Editing by Michael Flaherty and Christopher Cushing)

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