Nintendo Announces Wii Availability Details

Today, Nintendo announced that it will ship its next-generation Wii (pronounced "wee") video game console on November 19 in North and South America, accompanied by a whopping 25 games. The unit will sell for just $250. The Wii will be positioned against Microsoft's Xbox 360, which went on sale last November, and Sony's PlayStation 3 (PS3), which has been beset by manufacturing problems and other delays. (Sony now hopes to ship a limited number of PS3s by the end of the year in North America and Japan only, but will not begin shipping the console in volume until 2007.)

"Our goal is to bring gaming back to the masses," says Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime. "You see that in our pricing, you see that in the number of units we plan to make available this year, and you see that in how we are positioning the Wii to appeal to every member of the household, including but not limited to the hard-core gamer."

Nintendo chose to ratchet down the technology with this release and focus on innovations in game play instead. As a result, it's able to ship far more units than Microsoft or Sony, and at a lower price point. The Wii will retail for just $250 in the United States and will include several games with the console. By comparison, Xbox 360 sells for $300 to $400, depending on the version, and includes no games. The PS3 is even worse, with prices topping out at $600; that unit doesn't include games, either.

Wii will also offer features not found with the competition. For example, you can move the Wii hand controller naturally through the air to control on-screen action, and the Wii console lets you browse the Web, edit and view digital photos, and listen to weather forecasts and news reports. Wii owners will also be able to download games from older Nintendo systems.

Currently, Nintendo is a distant number three in the video game industry behind Sony and Microsoft. But it will be interesting to see whether the company's more inclusive strategy for the Wii will provide it with a much-needed boost.

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