Wii powers Nintendo past $85 billion

Investors sent the stock soaring another 5.3%

Soaring to levels archrival Sony and any American media conglom would kill for, Nintendo on Monday surpassed $85 billion in market value, making it arguably the world’s most valuable entertainment company.

It’s also now the third most valuable company in Japan, behind only Toyota and Mitsubishi.

The “Super Mario” maker’s stock price has tripled in the past year thanks to explosive sales around the world for its Wii and DS gaming consoles, as well as the accompanying software, much of it made by Nintendo itself.

Investors sent the stock soaring another 5.3% on Monday to $608. At that price Nintendo’s market cap is higher than that of Time Warner or Disney and twice that of Sony, with whose PlayStation biz it competes directly.

But while all those congloms are active in numerous spaces, from movies to online to electronics, Nintendo makes all of its revenue from videogame hardware and software.

In the first half of the current fiscal year, which ends in March, Japan’s domestic game market jumped 21.7% to $2.5 billion, according to recent figures compiled by game mag publisher Enterbrain.

By category, hardware sales grew 33.5% to $1.18 billion, while software sales rose 12.8% to $1.32 billion.

Though Nintendo products have been selling well around the world, it is particularly dominant in its home country.

The “Super Mario” maker was a main driver of this growth, moving 1.6 million Wii units in this period for a total of 3.55 million and 3.48 million Nintendo DS units for a cume of 19.3 million. By comparison, Sony sold 1.07 million of its PlayStation Portable machines, bringing the total to 6.22 million units.

Also according to Enterbrain, home sales of game software rose 39% year on year to 77.16 million titles, with Nintendo grabbing one-third of the domestic market.

The company has had great success targeting nontraditional gamers, including women and older adults, with brain training, fitness and other software that isn’t focused on action, adventure or sports.

There are signs, however, that the Nintendo boom may be peaking, even as the company’s stock price reaches new heights.

In September, Japan sales of the Wii console fell to 168,000 units — a 32% drop from August and the worst total since the Wii made its market bow in December.

Some analysts are also predicting that in the U.S., Microsoft’s Xbox 360 may have outsold the Wii for the first time in September, largely due to interest based on “Halo 3.” Final U.S. September vidgame sales figures aren’t yet out.

Nintendo does have a strong lineup for the rest of the holiday season, with exclusive games like its own “Super Mario Galaxy” and “Wii Fit,” though one of the most anticipated games, “Super Smash Bros. Brawl,” which features classic Nintendo characters fighting, was recently pushed back from December to February.

Most promising, however, may be that outside publishers, most of whom abandoned Nintendo’s last console, the GameCube, are now releasing titles for the Wii.

Many upcoming big games, such as “Guitar Hero 3” and “Manhunt 2,” will be available for the Wii. For the first time in a while, publishers are even working on Nintendo exclusives, such as Capcom’s “Resident Evil: Nintendo Chronicles” and an untitled game created by Steven Spielberg that Electronic Arts will release.