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Seeing red: Nintendo expects first annual loss ever

There is a bit of good news for Nintendo among all the gloom -- Nintendo 3DS sales are improving.
There is a bit of good news for Nintendo among all the gloom -- Nintendo 3DS sales are improving.Nintendo

It looks like the advance reports were (mostly) true: The House of Mario is hurting. Big time.

Japanese game giant Nintendo has posted its financial reports here, revealing that, for the first six months of this fiscal year, it experienced a loss of 70 billion yen or $923 million U.S. That is at least slightly better than the 100 billion yen loss Japanese financial newspaper — the Nikkei — predicted for the company yesterday.

But Nintendo also announced Thursday that it is forecasting, for the first time ever, that it will post an annual net loss of 20 billion yen ($264 million) for this financial year, which ends March 2012.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Nintendo game machines were practically spawning piles of gold for the company, what with the Nintendo DS line of gadgets dominating the handheld game market and the Wii flying off shelves and transforming legions of non-gamers into gamers for the first time. But as they say, what goes up ...

As of Thursday, Nintendo slashed its full-year operating profit forecast to just 1 billion yen, down from 35 billion yen.

The finger of blame here points directly at Japan's strong yen (which is impacting much of the country) as well as at Nintendo's shrinking hardware and software sales.

Nintendo's once ground-breaking Wii console is now aging and out-powered by game machines from rivals Microsoft and Sony. Nintendo does have a new game console in the works — the Wii U — but it won't launch until sometime next year.

Meanwhile, with smartphones and tablets transforming how and where people play portable games, the new Nintendo 3DS game machine has sold poorly compared to the company's expectations. Earlier this year, Nintendo was forced to slash the device's price from $250 to $170 after it spent only five months in stores.

Nintendo has now cut its forecast for 3DS software sales by 30 percent, down from 70 million units to 50 million units for the year that ends in March. It has, however, left its 3DS hardware sales forecast at 16 million units for the year (which some analysts think is optimistic).

But Nintendo points out that things are looking up for the 3DS. While the company sold a mere 710,000 units of the device from April to June this year, between June and September it sold 2.36 million units worldwide. That brings the total worldwide 3DS sales up to 6.68 million units.

And with the all-important holiday season coming — and the highly anticipated game "Super Mario 3D Land" on its way — perhaps there is a little silver lining in Nintendo's very cloudy sky.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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Winda Benedetti writes about games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things here on Twitter or join her in the stream here on Google+ .   And be sure to check out the In-Game Facebook page here.