Reported by Japanese site Nikkei and confirmed by Engadget, Nintendo will be merging its handheld and console divisions on February 16th. The unification is in hopes of tackling the next generation of video game consoles with something that will “turn heads.” 150 handheld and 130 console engineers will begin to operate out of a new $340 million facility—what they call a “hotbed of new ideas”—right next to the company’s headquarters in Kyoto, Japan. The new location will be under construction all the way until the end of the year.
The initial goal of the consolidation is to speed up research and development and begin to integrate the 3DS and Wii U in a meaningful way (not to mention save some of that sweet, sweet cash). Nintendo recognizes that the video game landscape is changing; tablets and mobile games have arrived in a big way and made a significant impact. If you don’t believe that, just look to December’s NPD hardware numbers.
The Wii U, the new hotness by all counts, only managed to sell 460,000 units while the Xbox 360 moved 1.4 million units. The Wii U has had trouble creating and sustaining an identity. Is it motion? Is it a tablet? Is it next gen? It doesn’t seem that Nintendo knows either, let alone the consumers. When things can be as straightforward as buying apps on your iPad or Android device (the influx of announcements of Android-powered devices like the Ouya and, more recently, the Nvidia Shield probably had a hand in it), there doesn’t seem to be as big of a need to suss out the answer.
However, combine all the sales of all of Nintendo’s available hardware and it seems like they’re doing moderately okay. Not stellar, but okay. And maybe that’s why this move doesn’t quite seem so urgent. Instead, it seems more calculated and that they’re still comfortable enough to shake things up a bit without resorting to underdog desperation.
In fact, this follows November rumors that a restructuring was imminent so as to allow for more research and development. The end game orbits around Shigeru Miyamoto’s involvement in the company, namely he would like to step down from leading EAD and start mentoring younger designers, eventually phasing out of his leadership and controlling roles of the company altogether. So this could be just the first of many Nintendo-related news in the coming months.