Nintendo's Wii to Hit Japanese Stores in Early December

Nintendo's next-generation Wii game console will arrive on time and at prices lower than its rivals, the company said Thursday.

Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo Co., the Japanese maker of Super Mario and Pokemon games, said Thursday that Wii will go on sale in Japan on Dec. 2, costing 25,000 yen ($215.50).

[Nintendo later announced that it would release the Wii on Nov. 19 in North America, and that the console would cost $250 in the U.S.]

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The company, which also makes the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS handheld machines, had promised the Wii for sometime in the final quarter of this year. It is avoiding the embarrassing delays announced recently by rival Sony Corp. (SNE)

The Kyoto-based manufacturer had already said the Wii wouldn't cost more than 25,000 yen. Iwata said overseas sales and prices will be "very close" to those for Japan but won't be disclosed until later.

"All I can say is please wait," he told reporters.

The Wii — pronounced "we" and meant to conjure the idea of fun for everyone — will be going head-to-head against the PlayStation 3, the upgrade from industry leader Sony, to woo game fans during holiday shopping.

"We want to propose a new lifestyle with Wii," Iwata said. "We want everyone in the family to play with it everyday."

The Wii is considerably cheaper than the PlayStation 3, set to sell for $499 and $599, depending on the features, and 59,800 yen in Japan.

More critically, the PlayStation 3, initially planned for earlier this year, has been postponed twice. The decision to delay the PlayStation 3 in Europe for four months until March was announced last week.

Plans were unchanged for U.S. and Japan sales, but far fewer consoles are expected to be available at the launch, with about 400,000 PlayStation 3 machines when they go on sale in North America on Nov. 17, and 100,000 on the Nov. 11 Japan launch date.

Iwata said the Wii, which offers easy-playing games, is meant to appeal to people regardless of gender, age or skills and won't be competing directly with the PlayStation 3 or Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Xbox 360 because it's wooing newcomers to games.

Instead of old-style remote controllers with complex buttons, Wii has a wireless wand-like remote that can be swung around like a tennis racket or a baton for conducting a virtual orchestra.

"I don't feel we are competing against rival makers," Iwata said at a hotel near Tokyo. "That's because we are battling public disinterest."

Nintendo is hoping to repeat the success of the Nintendo DS portable game console, which has proved a hit by offering brainteasers and virtual pets. The games have been more accessible than the more common, complex combat and shooting games targeting seasoned players.

In a demonstration Thursday, at a conference center, Nintendo showed that the Wii will come with an Internet browser and can be used to look at and edit digital photos on a TV monitor.

The Wii can also be used to get weather forecasts and news reports, features that are meant to widen the machine's appeal to people not used to games, Iwata said. Games for older Nintendo consoles will be offered as downloads, he said.

Another appeal of the Wii is that users will be able to create their own game characters.

Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto played a game of tennis on the Wii with Japanese tennis star Ai Sugiyama, swinging the remote controller like a racket on the stage. The characters playing tennis on the monitor were created to resemble Miyamoto and Sugiyama.

The handheld controller vibrates in time to the virtual racket hitting the ball, and the slapping sounds are also synchronized with the moves.

Microsoft's Xbox 360, which went on sale last year, could also get a lift from the delay and shortage of PlayStation 3.

A low-end version, already sold as the Xbox 360 Core System in the United States and Europe, is scheduled to arrive at stores in Japan in November for 29,800 yen, or ($256) — about 10,000 yen ($86) cheaper than its standard version.

Iwata said Nintendo is sticking to its plan to sell 6 million Wii consoles during the fiscal year ending March 2007. But he declined to say how many machines will be available on the first day.