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Nintendo is set to release Wii U video-game console Nov. 18

Nintendo's announcement kicks off the battle with Sony and Microsoft for holiday sales. Its next-generation console comes in a basic model at $300 and a deluxe version at $350.

September 14, 2012|By Alex Pham, Los Angeles Times
  • Nintendo showed off its new Wii U video-game controller Thursday in New York. It has a 6-inch touch screen that can display a different view of the game than what is on the TV screen.
Nintendo showed off its new Wii U video-game controller Thursday in New… (Mark Lennihan, Associated…)

It's game on for the battle of the next-generation consoles.

Nintendo Co. kicked off the high-stakes competition by announcing Thursday that its highly anticipated Wii U video game console will hit stores Nov. 18 with a price tag starting at $299.99 for a basic package that includes a console with 8 gigabytes of internal storage and a touch screen game controller.

A deluxe package, which will also include the "Nintendo Land" game and 32 gigabytes of internal memory, will be sold for $349.99.

At a news conference in New York, the Japanese video game giant also rolled out Nintendo TVii, a television-viewing experience on the Wii U's wireless tablet-sized touch-screen game controller.

Viewers in North America will be able to use the Wii U controller as a remote control for their TVs, search for live and recorded shows as well as online videos, get additional information on the programs they're watching and socialize with friends on Nintendo's Miiverse social network.

The Wii U represents Nintendo's effort to recapture the glory of its Wii, which has sold 96.7 million units worldwide since it launched in 2006. It has outpaced Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3, which has sold 66.2 million units, and Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360, which has sold 68.1 million units.

But the Xbox 360 and the PS3 have started to catch up in recent years as Wii sales have significantly tapered off. Part of the Wii's disadvantage was its lack of high-definition graphics capabilities.

The Wii U remedies that, and sets itself apart with a 6-inch touch-screen game pad, which serves as a "second screen" that can display a different view of the game than what is on the TV screen.

At its event, Nintendo showed off several games that used the two-screen feature, including "Metroid Blast," which was designed to appeal to hard-core gamers, and "New Super Mario Bros. U" for more casual players. Nintendo said it expects about 50 Wii U games to be released from Nov. 18 to March 31. The vast majority of Wii U games will sell for $59.99, said Scott Moffitt, Nintendo of America's executive vice president of sales and marketing.

Both Microsoft and Sony are said to be developing their next-generation game consoles but have not released any details.

Analysts expect the Wii U to sell well this holiday, but some doubt that Wii U will be able to match the success of the Wii.

"The Wii U will be sold out this holiday," Digital World Research analyst P.J. McNealy predicted in a report titled "The Business Model Impact on Video Game Hardware Launch Pricing and Price Cuts."

McNealy also wrote that he expects Nintendo to lower the price of its existing Wii console and that Sony would respond by lowering the price of its PS3, making this holiday an especially competitive one.

"Consumers will have plenty of entertainment options this holiday," McNealy said in an interview. "For many families, the choices will also include tablets and smartphones, as well the console."

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