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Nintendo hopes for Wii comeback - 19-November-2006, 12:06

Nintendo hopes for Wii comeback

The Wii hits US shops on Sunday

Nintendo releases its Wii games console in the US on Sunday, hoping to fight back against Sony and Microsoft.

The Japanese firm dominates the handheld gaming space, selling more than 200m DS and Gameboys globally.

But its last home console, the GameCube, was a mis-step and faltered as titles for the machine from third-party developers dried up.

Nintendo hopes the Wii, designed to be more accessible than rival machines, will boost its fortunes.

Nintendo has decided to opt-out of the "arms race" of the current round of consoles, that has seen Microsoft and Sony play a game of brinkmanship with their Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 machines.

Both firms have positioned their consoles as home entertainment hubs, offering high definition gaming and film playback, along with digital downloads and high-specification graphics and central processor chips.

Instead, Nintendo has attempted to re-design the gaming experience, opting for a controller which looks like a remote control but is motion sensitive, offering gamers a potentially simpler but at the same time more immersive experience.

The games for the machine have also been designed to be more accessible, with a focus on casual and family gaming.

Analysts and experts are divided over whether Nintendo will be able to break down the barriers between gamers and non-gamers but the firm has a track record of innovation.

Third-party developers are embracing Nintendo machines, with Ubisoft, for example, offering seven titles at launch including Red Steel, Far Cry Vengence and Splinter Cell: Double Agent.

Electronic Arts, the world's biggest games publisher, has also backed the Wii, admitting that the success Nintendo had made of its DS handheld console had forced them to re-think their plans.

Hiroshi Kamide, director of research at KBC Securities Japan, believes Wii will not only convert new gamers but also win over PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox fans, who may buy Wii in addition to PlayStation 3.

"The Wii will expand the market pie and grow in that sense, but also actually be the second console of choice for all the core gamers," he said, adding that Wii's success will depend on how well it does on both counts.

"It will be very interesting to see how much the market pie grows because of the Wii. But it is still a game console at the end of the day."

Wii has a pricing advantage at $250 (£132), half the price of the PlayStation 3 cheapest model.

The Xbox 360, which launched last year, sells for $300 (£158) to $400 (£212).

Nintendo spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa has said nearly 400,000 Wiis will be available for the Japan launch date on 2 December, and likely more for the US launch on Sunday.

The UK gets hold of the Wii console on 8 December for £179.
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