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Friday, September 15, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Nintendo to debut Wii for holidays

San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Hoping to pack enough video-game thrills at a bargain price to attract a broad audience, Nintendo revealed launch details Thursday for its Wii video-game console, saying it will start selling in the United States on Nov. 19 for $250, just two days after Sony's PlayStation 3 release.

"The release date is clearly a stab at Sony," said Ricardo Torres, editor at GameSpot.com.

The price is well under the $399 and $599 prices for the full versions of rival Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the PS3, respectively. That should enable Nintendo to go after price-conscious gamers as well as consumers who aren't as hard-core about playing games.

Nintendo's strategy is to make the Wii more appealing to nongamers so that it can expand the market potential for video games, said George Harrison, senior vice president of communications at Redmond-based Nintendo of America.

"We still think Microsoft and Sony are focused on the core gamer," Harrison said. "They have built in a lot of technology into their machines. It's almost overkill. We are hoping we have created something more people in the house can enjoy."

"We have a different paradigm for what turns on the consumer," said Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. "If you want power, frankly, you're going to go somewhere else."

In particular, the Wii won't render high-definition video output. It's limited to a resolution slightly higher than that of standard TV.

Nintendo is betting that HDTVs are still not common enough to be a major factor for people buying a game console.

The Wii won't have a hard drive, either, a distinct disadvantage compared with the PS3 and the Xbox 360.

It will have some on-board memory space, but a user will have to buy an SD card separately to store photos and other items. SD cards have a capacity of up to 8 gigabytes.

This approach was partly a cost decision, as was not including a DVD player in the system, Harrison said.

Prices for Wii games will be $50, $10 less than Xbox 360 games.

Harrison said the company will meet its previously announced target of shipping 4 million consoles by the end of the holidays.

The Xbox 360 launched last November amid severe shortages. Sony will launch in the United States on Nov. 17 and it has warned it will only sell up to 2.4 million worldwide by year-end.

Included with the Wii console are one Wii Remote wireless controller, a Nunchuk controller and a Wii Sports game disk.

The Wii controller senses motion and position. In a departure from past game consoles, it resembles a TV remote.

Players can use the Wii remote controller as if it were a baseball bat, swinging it so that it appears to hit a virtual baseball on the screen.

The bet is the controller will be more intuitive for nongamers and will inspire innovative game play — from casting out fishing lines to swinging swords — that won't be possible on other consoles.

Nintendo will have about 15 games at launch and 30 by the end of the year.

Among the surprises Thursday was that Nintendo will include a basic version of an Opera Internet browser for consumers to cruise the Web, read news and look up weather.

For full Web surfing, Harrison said, a user will need to upgrade to a more sophisticated browser.

Opera has said it will make a full browser available for free in Japan for the first six months after Wii's release. There is no word yet on whether it will do the same in the U.S.

The Wii console will also feature "channels" to provide entertainment beyond games.

Gamers can switch to a Wii Shop Channel, for instance, and buy old Nintendo games and download them to the console.

Material from Seattle Times technology reporter Kim Peterson and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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