Nintendo to combine portable, home console dev teams

The Japanese gamemaker will reorganize its hardware development for the first time in nine years

Japanese gamemaker Nintendo will combine its hardware teams for portable and home-based consoles, the first major change in its development structure in nearly a decade.

The company is planning to complete the move Feb. 16. Nintendo has kept separate teams since 2004, a period in which it launched two of the most popular game consoles ever, the portable Nintendo DS and the original Wii.

The new unified development team reflects the fading divide between "portable" and "home" gaming. Nintendo's Wii U, launched last year, includes a GamePad controller that is nearly a functional tablet on its own, complete with features such as a touchscreen, support for touch-card technology, and cameras.

"This is to maximize hardware development resources," said company spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa.

The new development team will develop consoles beyond the Wii U and the portable 3DS, also launched last year. Nintendo must deal with the ever-growing threat of game apps on smartphones and tablets, which compete directly for its "casual gamer" target market.

Domestic rival Sony has also begun to experiment with combining mobile and fixed gaming. The portable PlayStation Vita, launched in late 2011, can be used as a controller for the PlayStation 3 console, and some software titles can be played on either platform, with game progress shared back and forth between them.

Nintendo will this year complete a new development facility located next to its headquarters in Kyoto, according to a report in the Nikkei business newspaper. The company will invest about ¥30 billion (US$340 million) in the project.

The the portable Nintendo DS, launched in 2004, is Nintendo's top selling game console, with 153 million sold globally as of September 2012. The Wii has sold 97 million units since it went on sale in 2006.

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