Was it Mario or Luigi, maybe Donkey Kong? Everybody has heard of these characters and many of us have had our favourite over the years.

In fact, for many westerners, whether it be through Gameboy or Game Cube, Nintendo 64 or DS, these were the first parts of Japanese culture we knew. But what next for the company?

Nintendo has made its first ever yearly loss, according to Bloomberg. The figures for the financial year 2011 – 2012, officially an operating loss of ¥37.3 billion (about $450 million) are worrying for the games giant. Many people blame the trouble on competition in the market from smartphone makers (who needs a Game Boy or Nintendo DS when you have an iPhone?) but even console sales are down.

There are high hopes for sales of the new Wii U after much excitement followed the then game changing Wii on its 2006 release. Hopefully that will be the good news many game fans are hoping for. The Wall Street Journal is more optimistic, quoting company predictions that they can recover with strong Nintendo 3DS sales – the machine now more profitable due to improvements in manufacturing efficiency.

Lets hope another genius can come up with another set of characters, games or even just tunes that can capture the imagination as strongly as the pair of Italian plumbers who really made their mark for Nintendo in the 1990s!