Nintendo's 'Wii Fit' Gears Up for Japan Dec. 1

Nintendo Co. Ltd. (NTDOY ) said on Wednesday it would start selling its "Wii Fit" home fitness game in Japan in time for the critical year-end shopping season, sending its shares to a record high.

Nintendo's announcement comes just a day after Sony Corp. (SNE) said it would cut the price of its PlayStation 3 by 10 percent in Japan and launch a new, lower-priced PS3 model to battle Nintendo's dominance.

The new game, which goes on sale on Dec. 1 for 8,800 yen ($75), features a pressure-sensing mat called the "Wii Balance Board", which looks like a set of bathroom scales and can sense when a person moves and leans, enabling players to "head" virtual soccer balls and experience ski jumping on a TV screen.

The board can also be used for such activities as yoga and aerobics.

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The new software is likely to be the next major sales driver for Nintendo's Wii game console after initial demand was stirred by popularity of "Wii Sports" software, which lets gamers play a virtual tennis match in the living room, analysts have said.

The Wii has far outsold Sony's PS3 since the two consoles were launched late last year as Nintendo's strategy to offer easy-to-play but innovative games expanded the gaming population beyond young males to women and the elderly.

"This is our most important product for this coming year-end," Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told a news conference. "With 'Wii Fit', we will be aiming to expand the definition of videogames as well as our user base."

Sony has packed its cutting-edge technology such as a Blu-ray high-definition DVD player in the PS3, enabling lifelike graphics.

But the advanced functions have driven up manufacturing costs and made it difficult and time-consuming for software creators to develop PS3 games.

Shares in Nintendo closed up 4.9 percent at 65,800 yen, a record closing high, while Sony fell 0.7 percent to 5,780 yen and the Nikkei average was up 0.1 percent.

Nintendo, locked in battle with Sony and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) in the global videogame industry, said "Wii Fit" will be launched in overseas markets in 2008.

($1=117.18 Yen)