Nintendo prices Wii U above PlayStation3 and Xbox in Japan

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Nintendo Co will sell its latest game console, the Wii U, in Japan starting at 26,250 yen as the creator of Super Mario looks to regain the lead in gaming from Sony and Microsoft and fend of tablet and smartphone makers led by Apple Inc.

In addition to the basic 8 gigabyte model Nintendo will sell a 32 GB version at 31,500 yen, both from December 8, Nintendo's president, Satoru Iwata said in a webcast on Thursday. The Japanese company will reveal prices and the launch date for the U.S. market at an event in New York starting at 1400 GMT.

Nintendo is fielding the successor to its hit Wii console in the busy year-end shopping season, going up against Sony Corp's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Corp's Xbox 360. Current prices on entry-level consoles from those two makers in Japan are 24,980 yen and 19,800 yen.

The original Wii took the gaming world by storm in 2006 to become the world's biggest selling home console, with motion-controlled gaming and a slew of software titles that appealed beyond a core of traditional gamers.

What became a 100 million machine bonanza for Nintendo is waning. In the three months to June 30, sales of its Wii game machines more than halved to 710,000 from 1.56 million a year earlier.

Supporting two "GamePad" controllers designed to look and function like tablets, the Wii successor, the first new console from Nintendo in six years, will come with a social-gaming network function dubbed "Miiverse" installed and will be its first machine in 16 years to launch with a dedicated "Super Mario" game title.

Apple challenge
Repeating the Wii's success, however, will be tough as Nintendo contends not only with Microsoft and Sony, but tackles tablet and smartphone makers lead by Apple that are eating into the $78 billion gaming market.

Apple on Wednesday revealed its latest iPhone with bigger screen, better definition and a wireless function that allows users to view their smartphone images and games on TVs equipped with an Apple TV receiver.

For now, Nintendo, which began in 1889 making playing cards in the back streets of Kyoto, has a big enough cash pile built up during the Wii boom about $14 billion to stick with its hardware strategy.

However, if the Wii U fails to win over gamers amid a flood of tablets and smartphones, it may, say analysts, have to consider leveraging its software assets by letting Super Mario roam across devices built by other companies.

The console, unveiled in June, is available in black and white and has a 6.2-inch touch screen that includes a stylus. The GamePad controller has traditional buttons with left and right analog sticks. It will carry video content from Netflix Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Google Inc's YouTube and Hulu.

Nintendo has said 23 new Wii U titles, including Nintendo Land, are in development. Third-party titles include Mass Effect 3 from Electronic Arts, Darksiders II from THQ and Ubisoft's exclusive Wii U title Zombi.

Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012

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