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Thu, Oct 11, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Nintendo to link Wii to Internet

BETTING ON THE WEB The Japanese company is hoping online options will draw even more people to the Wii, boosting not only machine sales but also game sales


Nintendo hopes to give its popular Wii game console another boost by offering support services to hook the machine to the Internet in Japan, the company president said yesterday.

A network connection will allow people not only to download games but also play games with others online, as well as gain other content and information. Nintendo is hoping that will draw even more people to the Wii, leading not only to machine sales but game software sales.

Nintendo will work with Japan's top telecommunications company, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp, to give support services to connect the Wii in people's homes to the Internet, and open a telephone service for technical support, President Satoru Iwata said.

He said details of the support services will be disclosed later.

Nintendo Co, the Kyoto-based manufacturer of Pokemon and Super Mario games, has scored a hit with its US$250 Wii, which comes with a wandlike remote controller for fishing, golfing and other easy-to-play games.

But competition is heating up with rivals Sony Corp and Microsoft Corp in advance of the key Christmas shopping season.

Wii and Nintendo's DS handheld machine have succeeded in drawing newcomers, including women and the elderly, to games. But more work is needed so that effort doesn't run out of steam, Iwata told reporters at a hall in this Tokyo suburb.

"People tend to get bored, and the skeptics are asking whether it's just a one-time deal," he said. "We must think of the next step."

Iwata said only about 40 percent of Wii owners in Japan have the console connected to the Internet. And more games will be available as downloads, he said.

More manufacturers are also making games for Nintendo machines, rising to about half of the software makers for the DS, up from a quarter last year.

Nintendo has sold 47.3 million DS machines worldwide since they went on sale in 2004. The DS has two screens, including one that's touch panel.

Legendary Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto appeared on stage to demonstrate the Wii Fit, a game planned for December, which allows players to weigh themselves, check their balance and play fitness games.

Miyamoto and guests demonstrated yoga positions, hula hooping and ski jump as living room workouts for the Wii.

Nintendo has chosen a different strategy from Sony and Microsoft, with their more expensive machines, and has been trying to woo novices with brain teasers, sport games and virtual pets, instead of the usual shoot-them-ups and role-playing games.

Since Wii went on sale late last year, Nintendo has shipped 9.3 million Wiis around the world, with supplies barely keeping up with demand. By the end of this fiscal year in March, Wii global shipments are expected to have reached 22.3 million.

Wii sales have surpassed Sony's 5 million for the PlayStation 3, which went on sale late last year in Japan and the US and in March in Europe. Microsoft has sold 11.6 million Xbox 360 machines in the last two years.

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