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Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Nintendo GameCube price cut seen possible this week

Video game company Nintendo is expected to cut the price of its lagging GameCube games console to $99 from $149 within the next few days, industry sources said on Tuesday.

The price cut had been widely expected by analysts and game publishing companies, some of whom have stopped or curtailed production of titles for the GameCube, a distant third in the crowded U.S. console market.

A Nintendo spokesman declined to comment.

But one source at a major game publisher said sales representatives of that company had seen an advance newspaper advertisement from retailer Target Corp. slated to run this weekend that reflected a price of $99. A spokeswoman for Target was not immediately available for comment.

Last week, a computer scan of what appeared to be an October ad for retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. made the rounds of online gaming sites, showing the GameCube at $99. Wal-Mart has declined to comment on the apparent ad.

A financial analyst also said he believed that the Nintendo would discount the GameCube in the next few days.

The price cut to $99 would put the GameCube at the same price as Nintendo's dominant Game Boy Advance SP handheld gaming device. It was not immediately clear if the price of that unit would be cut as well.

The GameCube was released in November 2001 and marked Nintendo's fourth major gaming console. While the company once dominated the American gaming marketplace, since 1995 it has seen its fortunes wane with the rise of Sony Corp.'s PlayStation platform.

When Microsoft Corp. said it would enter the console gaming market with its Xbox, most observers expected it and Nintendo to fight a close battle for second place in the U.S. market behind Sony's PlayStation 2.

But in the nearly two years since the GameCube and Xbox were released, Microsoft has established itself firmly in second place. Through August, according to data from NPDFunworld, a market research service, the GameCube's U.S. installed base was about 29 percent smaller than that of the Xbox.

Nintendo has temporarily halted production of the GameCube because of an inventory build-up, and a number of game publishers around the world have curtailed or halted development for the console because of its limited success.

Both Sony and Microsoft have already announced their major holiday promotions. Rather than price cuts, as were widely hoped for by publishers and retailers, they chose instead to offer bundle packages, keeping prices steady and throwing in free games.

Nintendo already offers a bundle where consumers can get the GameCube and the Game Boy Player, a device that attaches to the GameCube and plays Game Boy cartridges on a regular TV screen, for $149.

The GameCube has always been the least expense of the three major console systems; it was introduced at $199, while the PS2 and Xbox started at $299. When they went to $199 in May 2002, Nintendo went to $149. It stayed at $149 when Sony and Microsoft went to $179 in May of this year.

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