Mario attends the Mario Kart Wii Building Set event at the
Nintendo World Store in New York last month. (Photo by
Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
Video game pioneer Nintendo Co will try to revive its
flagging fortunes with a new gaming system, Wii U, that hits US
store shelves on November 18, complete with a new "Super Mario"
game the Japanese company hopes will retake market share from
Internet and mobile rivals.
It will be the first Nintendo machine in 16 years to launch
with a dedicated "Super Mario" game title as the company
tries to regain its lead from from Sony Corp and Microsoft
Corp at a time console sales are sputtering. Gamers have been
migrating online or to mobile devices such as Apple Inc's
Money-losing Nintendo is launching the successor to the
blockbuster Wii ahead of the busy year-end holiday shopping
Starting at just under $300, the new version of the console
that took the industry by storm six years ago finally catches
up to the Xbox with "TVii" -- a streaming service that will
also allow users to watch and record live television.
It will stream video from Netflix Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Google
Inc's YouTube, and Hulu. It will also come with touch-screen
controllers - helping to push its price tag above rival
consoles. Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 start
at $250 and $200, respectively.
The Wii U will go on sale in Japan on December 8 for about
"Before, Nintendo took a very game-centric approach avoiding
traditional content beyond games. But it's pretty clear, it's
a necessity," said Billy Pidgeon, an analyst at M2 Research.
"It's a must-have right now and with this, they can catch up
somewhat to Microsoft's Xbox offerings."
Sales of traditional consoles and packaged videogames have
slid sharply in past years, hammered by the advent of
Internet games designed by the likes of Zynga Inc, and the
growing popularity of free, casual games on smartphones.
The original Wii became the world's biggest selling home
console shortly after its 2006 launch, with motion-controlled
gaming and a slew of software titles that appealed to users
beyond traditional gamers.
What became a 100 million-machine bonanza for Nintendo is
waning. In the three months to June 30, sales of its Wii more
than halved to 710,000 from 1.56 million a year earlier.
"Just looking at the price, it does seem a little high,"
Richard George, Nintendo Executive Editor at IGN.com. "The
catch is that the initial five to six months of the console,
most of the people buying will be hardcore Ninetndo fans."
"It also helps to have the console with the entertainment
service, the Tvii. It's one of the most unique services out
there. It sort of acts as an aggregate as a lot of gamers
have been using Netflix and DVR."
TAKING A CLOSER LOOK
Supporting two "GamePad" controllers designed to look and
function like tablets, the first new console from Nintendo in
six years will come with a gamer's social network called
"Miiverse", though executives did not provide much more
In addition to the basic 8 gigabyte model costing $299.99,
Nintendo will sell a "deluxe" 32 GB version for $349.99 in
the United States and 31,500 yen in Japan.
Repeating the Wii's success, however, will be tough as
Nintendo battles not just Microsoft and Sony but also tablet
and smartphone makers led by Apple that are eating into the
$78 billion gaming market.
Apple on Wednesday revealed its latest iPhone with a bigger
screen, better definition and a wireless function that allows
users to view their smartphone images and games on TVs
equipped with an Apple TV receiver.
For now, Nintendo, which began in 1889 making playing cards
in the back streets of Kyoto, has a big enough cash pile
built up during the Wii boom -- about $14 billion -- to stick
with its hardware strategy.
But if the Wii U fails to win over gamers amid a flood of
tablets and smartphones, it may have to consider leveraging
its software assets by letting Super Mario roam across
devices built by other companies, analysts say.
The console, unveiled in June, is available in black and
white and has a 6.2-inch touch screen that includes a stylus.
The GamePad controller has traditional buttons with left and
right analog sticks.
Nintendo has said 23 new Wii U titles, including Nintendo
Land, are in development. Third-party titles include Mass
Effect 3 from Electronic Arts, Darksiders II from THQ and
Ubisoft's exclusive Wii U title Zombie U.