Nintendo’s annual fiscal-year earnings release went live on Wednesday via an announcement from its Japanese arm, and with that release came a very modestly tucked bit of giant news: the firmest launch-window announcement yet for the company’s next, still-unnamed game system.
“For our dedicated video game platform business, Nintendo is currently developing a gaming platform codenamed ‘NX’ with a brand-new concept,” the report said in its “outlook” section. “NX will be launched in March 2017 globally.” The earnings release did not offer any explanation or clarification about what that “brand-new concept” will be, in spite of recent patent-related hints about twists such as a new controller.
In even more surprising news, expectations that Nintendo would unveil the NX in time for June’s Electronic Entertainment Expo were dashed by a statement from acting Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima, who confirmed in a Wednesday investor phone call (as reported by The Wall Street Journal‘s Tokyo bureau correspondent Takashi Mochizuki) that the system will not appear at this year’s E3. In fact, various statements made on Wednesday, including an Australian announcement and a post on the company’s American Twitter feed, hint at the company bringing only the Wii U version of The Legend of Zelda to E3 2016—meaning, the company’s expo presence may include no other software.
Should Nintendo stick to that NX release timeline, the announced launch window will just barely place Nintendo NX in the company’s current fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2017. Additionally, Nintendo has seen fit to delay its next major Legend of Zelda game again. Its Wii U version had already been delayed from a potential 2015 holiday release, and now that version has been pushed once more to “2017.” Later in the call to investors, Kimishima confirmed that the new Zelda game will launch on both Wii U and Nintendo NX, as had been predicted.
Rumors ahead of the earnings release also hinted at Nintendo announcing more new smartphone-specific games to join Miitomo, which Nintendo told investors had already racked up over 10 million worldwide players. That news bore out, as Kimishima announced on Wednesday that new Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing games would come to smartphones, but no specific release dates or game details came with that announcement.
Nintendo is clearly looking forward to greener pastures, as the company’s latest earnings report included a drop in profits from 41.8 billion yen in FY2015 to 16.5 billion yen, or $149 million, in FY2016. Wednesday’s report points to the NX launch and growth in the amiibo and smartphone-gaming sectors as drivers of increased FY2017 profit expectations to the tune of 35 billion yen. Clearly, Nintendo doesn’t expect Wii U hardware to fuel those profits, as the company’s report predicts that it will only sell 800,000 Wii U consoles in FY2017—which may prove out rumors that the system’s production run will soon end.