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Nintendo has raced into the gap left by Sony’s move to delay the launch of PlayStation 3, confirming that its much-hyped Wii console will make it here for Christmas at a price that will put it in plenty of stockings claims Simon Hayes writing in the Australian newspaper.

 The low price and pre-Christmas release of Wii should assist Nintendo’s resurgence in the Australian market and by taking advantage of Sony’s move to delay the PS3’s debut until early next year, Nintendo will launch the Wii on December 7, giving it a three-week lead-in to the festive season the Australian said. (See http://australianit.news.com.au/articles/0,7204,20435154%5E15345%5E%5Enbv%5E15306-15316,00.html)

It appears Wii may have cracked open Harvey Norman, Australia’s toughest retailer, for Nintendo.

Wii will sell for $399, low-balling Microsoft’s $649 Xbox 360. It will also be substantially cheaper than the the PS3, which will be released in North America in mid-November for $US500 and $US600 (expected to be about $900 in Australia). Wii’s local launch will trail the North American debut by a couple of weeks, where it is expected to retail for $US250.

Industry watchers say Wii, which will launch with 20 game titles, will give Xbox 360 a run for its money and make life harder for Sony.

Local retailers expect the Wii to appeal more to younger users.

“The 360 will probably address the mature market, while Wii will appeal to the younger age group,” said Harvey Norman games product and marketing manager Jason Williams.

“The 360 is obviously a very powerful console. It has internet connectivity and the ability to be used as a Media Centre extender, so it is an appealing product.”

Getting into Harvey Norman’s more than 500 franchised stores has to be a top priority for Nintendo,

The absence of the PS3 could make the deal more attractive for the retailer.

“We are currently negotiating trading terms with Nintendo,” Mr Williams said.

Even with the PS3 delayed, Nintendo faces an uphill battle to win some of Sony’s two million PS2 users.

Sony cut the price of the PS2 to $199 in June in the hope users would be likely to upgrade to PS3 when it was released.

“At $199 the PS2 is aimed at everyone,” Mr Williams said.

Wii was designed from the ground up to straddle the console games market, Nintendo said.

“The design brief for the Wii was, besides satisfying core gamers, to expand it to a form of entertainment for non-gamers and lapsed gamers,” a Nintendo spokesman said.

“The pricing reflects that.”

Low-budget users could be attracted by Nintendo’s GameCube, now selling for $99.

Target electronics business manager Chris Hardiman said: “Wii lines up more against the PS2, while the 360 is more of a total entertainment package.”

“Wii is aimed at younger gamers, so it suits the Target demographic. It’s going to be $250 cheaper than the 360, so it’s more in the family budget.”

Analysis by GfK shows Microsoft sold 80,000 Xbox 360s by the end of July, clearly making Nintendo the underdog.

While Nintendo is best known for 1980s franchises such as Donkey Kong and Mario Bros, it has had a revival lately with the Game Boy Advance and the handheld Nintendo DS.

It has been behind a revival of social games such as pet-training title Nintendogs, to grow the console market beyond the traditional shoot-’em-up and fantasy offerings. “Nintendo is trying to target the family and younger market with a more social gaming perspective,” EB Games managing director Steve Wilson said.

Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia chief executive Chris Hanlon said the market was looking strong in the lead-up to Christmas.

Figures from PricewaterhouseCoopers show revenue for games software is forecast to rise by 20 per cent to $801 million in 2006, heading up to $1.2 billion by 2010.

“The market for the first six months of the year was up eight per cent and that took people by surprise,” Mr Hanlon said.

“It shows that people were willing to buy the current software even while knowing the next-generation platforms were coming soon.

With wires

 

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