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Thursday, November 16, 2006
Nintendo Eyes Comeback With Family-friendly Wii

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 Microsoft.

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.

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