Nintendo's Wii to debut in November

Nintendo will launch its Wii game console in the US on November 19, in Japan on December 2, and Australia on December 7, the company said Thursday.

The console will cost US$250 in the U.S. and $399.95 in Australia. T price is considerably cheaper than the YEN 59,800 (AUD$675) tag of the competing PlayStation 3 that will go on sale on November 11 in Japan, November 17 in the US and in March 2007 in Australia.

Wii will go up against two tough opponents: Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360. The former is awaited by many gamers, while the latter has been on the market for a year and has been generally well received by gamers in Europe and the US, although less so by those in Japan.

Nintendo, the smallest of the three companies, is well-known for its family-friendly video games, and for pursuing the market with an emphasis on light-hearted fun in an effort to widen the gaming audience. The company has already had some success. While sales of the PlayStation Portable are expected to decline this year, sales of Nintendo's competing Nintendo DS portable are surging, thanks to the surprise hit of a brain-training game.

The company's innovations with the Wii include its controller, which looks similar to a remote control. The device features motion sensors and links via wireless to the Wii so that it can be swung like a bat in a baseball game or jabbed like a fist in a boxing game. The idea behind the controller is that anyone -- not just experienced gamers -- can use it.

The Japan launch software line-up will consist of 16 games, and there should be 22 on sale by the end of 2006, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said at a Tokyo news conference on Thursday. Several will come from Nintendo, including "Wii Sports," a package including baseball, boxing, tennis and bowling that will retail for YEN 4,800. There will also be "Zelda: Twilight Princess," which will cost YEN 6,800.

Nintendo will also offer so-called classic games for download at prices between YEN 500 and YEN 1,000. Titles from the days of the company's Famicon and Super Famicon will be offered and accessed through the console's Wii Channel service. Wii Channel will also offer the latest news and weather information, a sticky notes-like message service that can be used by family members, and access to the Internet through a version of the Opera Web browser.

Wii Channel is part of push to widen the audience. The company is hoping to make the Wii something that people use everyday and not just for gaming. The other features could also attract non-gamers in a family who might one day be tempted to buy one of the low-cost classic games and eventually progress to make their first purchase of more sophisticated packaged software.

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Martyn Williams

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