Once written off by its critics, Nintendo has emerged as a serious
contender in the next-generation console war with its family friendly Wii machine that it hopes will attract a new legion of gamers.
The video game pioneer is on a quest for market dominance again with the
Wii which hits the shelves in the US on Sunday, two days after the
PlayStation 3, and in Japan on December 2.
At 249.99 dollars in the US and 25,000 yen (212 dollars) in Japan, the Wii
is about half the price of the PS3.
Nintendo created a big buzz last year when it unveiled an innovative new
controller for the Wii shaped like a television remote control and
engineered with motion sensors and speakers.
By waving or swinging the controller, it can serve as a sword, tennis
racket or car steering wheel, with a built-in speaker and rumble feature.
There is also a "Nunchuku" controller which when connected to the main
controller resembles the martial arts weapon.
Nintendo said 400,000 Wii consoles would be available on launch in Japan
-- about four times the number of PlayStation 3s Sony managed to ship.
The Wii's predecessor, the GameCube, failed to recapture the market share
once enjoyed by Nintendo's earlier consoles, despite being cheaper than
the PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's original Xbox.
But things look brighter for the Wii, which has been getting rave reviews
for its new controller and games that shy away from blood-and-guts action.
The Kyoto-based company leads the global market in portable machines and
has been taking aim at Sony's lead in stand-alone consoles, as has
Nintendo aims to ship one million Wiis in Japan and four million worldwide
by the end of the year, rising to six million globally by March 2007.
"We want to appeal to non-gamers and families -- that is how we planned
our hardware and software," said Nintendo spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa.
"Normally parents don't like games. We want parents to say, 'Because it's
Wii, let's play together,'" he added.
Nintendo will also try to win back old game fans by stirring their
nostalgia with an updated version of the classic Mario Brothers that takes
the pudgy Italian plumber with his trademark moustache into space.
Nintendo's entry into the market comes as technical glitches trouble Sony,
which delayed the global launch of the PS3 by about six months until
November, giving US software giant Microsoft a one-year head start with
its Xbox 360.
Sony was forced to delay the PS3 launch again in Europe until March due
production with the DVD player that meant many Japanese also went home
empty-handed at Saturday's launch.