We launched a new product category – amiibo – simultaneously with "Super Smash Bros for Wii U," and the end of the subject fiscal term marked a total shipment of approximately 10.5 million units worldwide. As we had shipped approximately 5.7 million units by the end of calendar year 2014, it is safe to say that we achieved very strong growth even in the period immediately after the year-end sales season was over. Our assessment is that people purchase additional amiibo figures without any seasonal bias, as they are relatively more affordable than video game titles.
Our consumers have been inconvenienced by stock shortages on some of the figures in our amiibo lineup. We have increased production for amiibo figures that have sold out very quickly after launch, that are indispensable to play a certain game and for which we have received strong demand from retailers and consumers. However, we are very sorry that we can’t promise at what point we will likely be able to resolve the current situation because figures such as these require a considerable amount of time to produce, store shelf space is limited and it is difficult to precisely predict the exact amount of overall demand.
On the other hand, the number of software titles compatible with amiibo is increasing and consumers’ recognition and understanding for amiibo has improved significantly compared to the launch period, so we believe that we can predict further sales growth.
This pie graph shows the most recent regional shipment breakdown of amiibo. The U.S. and Canada, shown in red in the graph, have an overwhelmingly large 66 percent share, showing a tremendous presence overall.
In addition to figure offerings in the amiibo lineup this year, we are planning to release Yarn Yoshi amiibo and card-type amiibo. The first software title that is compatible with these amiibo cards is "Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer," which for Nintendo 3DS. Simultaneously, we will also launch the "Nintendo 3DS NFC Reader/Writer" so that not only the owners of New Nintendo 3DS, which is equipped with NFC functionality, but also the owners of the original Nintendo 3DS systems can play with amiibo. The NFC Reader/Writer enables consumers to play with amiibo on the original Nintendo 3DS systems, and we believe we can expect further growth in amiibo sales with this significant increase in the number of compatible hardware systems.
Next, I would like to give you a brief update on the progress in our digital business.
These graphs show the download sales transitions in the recent three fiscal years. In the just-ended financial year, following on from the third quarter, the fourth-quarter download sales grew dramatically and the total download sales for the full fiscal year reached 31.3 billion yen. The digital download sales increase of about 30 percent compared to the previous fiscal year should be mainly attributable to such facts as the sales of the digital versions of both the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U software increasing, especially in the overseas markets.
And now, I would like to discuss our future business developments.
Right now, the game business is undergoing significant change. The spread of the Internet and social media has dramatically changed the lifestyles of people all over the world, and Nintendo is adjusting its strategic endeavors in line with the new market dynamics.
For one thing, in order to maximize the value of Nintendo IP, we are working to leverage opportunities that go beyond a traditional focus on dedicated video game systems. As you know, amiibo is one such effort. Also, we made the announcement that we will take advantage of smart devices. As smart devices are increasing in significance as the dominant window through which consumers connect with one another and with society, it is natural for us to leverage smart devices to communicate directly with our consumers.
In addition, to facilitate the ability for consumers to be closely and continuously connected with Nintendo IP, Nintendo will also deploy Nintendo IP on games for smart devices.
Regarding this subject, we announced our business alliance with DeNA on March 17. Each of our companies offers unique strengths, and we are confident that when combined, the synergies will enable us to compete strongly in the smart device space.
We will start the service for the first game application by the end of this calendar year. Internally at Nintendo, we have executed several organizational and personnel changes in order to properly operate the smart device business, and we will make further changes before the first release.
As we confirmed on March 17, all of our IP can be considered for a smart device game. On the other hand, since the game business on smart devices is already severely competitive, even with highly popular IP, the odds of success are quite low if consumers cannot appreciate the quality of a game. Also, if we were simply to port software that already has a track record on a dedicated game system, it would not match the play styles of smart devices, and the appropriate business models are different between the two, so we would not anticipate a great result. If we did not aim to achieve a significant result, it would be meaningless for us to do it at all. Accordingly, we are going to carefully select appropriate IP and titles for our smart device deployment.
Regarding the number of the titles, you may want to know that we will release approximately five titles by the end of the next fiscal year, which is the end of March 2017. You may think it is a small number, but when we aim to make each title a hit, and because we want to thoroughly operate every one of them for a significant amount of time after their releases, this is not a small number at all and should demonstrate our serious commitment to the smart device business.
We will strive to expand this business into global markets at a steady pace so that eventually we will entertain hundreds of millions of people all around the world. We are aiming to make this one of the pillars of Nintendo’s revenue structure.
On the other hand, Nintendo continues to have strong passion and believes in the promising prospects for the future of our dedicated video game system business. We will deploy our game business on smart devices not because we think that the dedicated game system business will wane, but because doing so will encourage a greater number of people to associate with Nintendo IP, to become familiar with the charms of video games and, eventually, to explore more premium experiences on our dedicated game systems. To realize this, we need to create a bridge between the two platforms.
When we announced our business alliance with DeNA, we announced an "integrated membership service," with the mission of establishing a bridge between smart devices and dedicated game systems. The membership service will encompass multiple devices such as our existing Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, the dedicated game system NX, which is currently under development, smart devices and PCs.