Nintendo Q2 beats forecasts on Mario Wii lift

Nintendo said it made an operating profit of around $215 million in its fiscal second quarter

A statue of Nintendo's video game character Super Mario stands at the company's showroom in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: EPA.

OSAKA -Long-struggling Japanese video game maker Nintendo Co eked out an unexpected quarterly operating profit as new game "Mario Kart 8" stoked sales of its Wii U console, bolstering hopes it was on track for its first annual profit in four years.

Nintendo said on Wednesday it made an operating profit of around 215 million in its fiscal second quarter, compared with an 18 billion yen operating loss a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected a 3.7 billion yen loss for July-September, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine.

Nintendo has struggled to revive its fortunes as Sony Corp and Microsoft Corp have gained dominance in the home video console market. The growth of free mobile games played on smartphones and tablet computers has also harmed its prospects, with Nintendo games not available on those devices.

On Wednesday the company said sales of its Wii U home games console, the latest version of its now-ageing Wii product, more than doubled in the April-September period from a year earlier, rising to 1.1 million units.

Nintendo said Wii U sales had improved since "Mario Kart 8", the latest game to feature its ever popular Mario character, went on sale in May. With the key year-end holiday sales period coming up, Nintendo said it still aims to sell 3.6 million of the consoles in the current business year through March 2015.

The company, which said it was also helped in the latest quarter by a weaker yen boosting the value of overseas sales, reiterated its forecast for a full-year operating profit of 40 billion yen. But analysts have been sceptical on the target as well as the company's strategy, with the average estimate prior to Wednesday's announcement being for a 24 billion yen profit.

The company's shares have fallen around 85 percent from their 2007 high as the heyday Nintendo enjoyed with the Wii console's hot status fades into the distance. Veteran Chief Executive Satoru Iwata has come under repeated pressure to change its strategy, such as releasing games that can be played on any mobile device.

Nintendo has instead has pinned hopes on hit games such as Mario Kart 8. The Wii U, the latest version of the console that first hit the market in 2006, was launched in December 2012, but sales had previously fallen short of projections.