Game giant Nintendo raised its annual net profit forecast on Tuesday, saying the weak yen and steady sales of the Switch console, now in its seventh year, would boost earnings.

Sales grew in the first three quarters for major releases including the new Zelda game, the company said, while the Super Mario movie helped sell games from the Mario franchise.

Nintendo now expects net profit of 440 billion yen ($2.96 billion) in the current financial year, up from its previously announced forecast of 420 billion yen.

"This fiscal year is the seventh year since the launch of Nintendo Switch, but sell-through has remained steady and there are more annual playing users than ever before," Nintendo said.

The Switch, both a handheld and TV-compatible device, became a must-have distraction among all age groups during the Covid pandemic, but buzz around the gadget is slowly fading.

The Kyoto-based firm sold 13.74 million Switch consoles in April-December 2023, down 7.8 percent year-on-year.

Speculation is rife that Nintendo will soon announce a new console to replace the Switch, although the company has so far remained tight-lipped about its plans.

"It would not be any surprise if a next-generation machine were announced at any time now," Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Toyo Securities, told AFP ahead of the earnings release.

Sam Naji, director of the video game analytics and consultancy firm SJN Insights, added that an announcement could come this summer, with the launch most likely in November to capitalize on Christmas sales.

"They have to get the timing right because they're conscious of the fact that the minute they announce it, sales for the (existing) Switch will probably collapse, or at least go down significantly," Naji told AFP.

Because the Switch is designed to satisfy two markets -- the older generation who play it as a console, and younger gamers who use it as a handheld device -- it will be challenging to come up with a new product, Naji said.

"Nintendo always surprises us, but I don't see how you can improve on this," he said.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it's basically a beefed up version of the Switch" with more memory or a "stronger chip".

Nintendo's net profit in the first three quarters rose around 18 percent on-year to 408 billion yen.

The weak yen, which inflates profits for Japanese exporters, had a positive impact on net sales, the company said.

Before the financial year is out, Nintendo is also hoping to see the early success of new releases "Mario vs Donkey Kong" this month and "Princess Peach: Showtime!" in March.