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Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Nintendo DS will be on shelves in time for Christmas season
By Tricia Duryee
Nintendo said yesterday its new flashy handheld game player, the Nintendo DS, will be ready for the all-important holiday shopping season.
Rival Sony, meanwhile, announced yesterday that it was introducing a slimmed-down PlayStation 2 console, also in time for it to go on sale in November.
The Nintendo DS will start selling in North America Nov. 21 and in Japan Dec. 2, making it the first time a Nintendo system has been launched first outside of Japan. The unit will sell for $149.99, or slightly below the expected price of $199, the company said.
Nintendo, which dominates the market for handheld game consoles, hopes to lure older gamers with the DS in addition to the more youthful crowd attracted to the popular Game Boys, said Reggie Fils-Aime, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Nintendo of America.
Fils-Aime said there was "no mystery" behind the decision to launch the player in North America because the holiday season starts first here. In Japan, the formal shopping season starts Dec. 2.
The DS flips open to reveal two 3-inch screens. One of them reacts to the touch of a stylus.
It also sports voice recognition and a wireless feature that allows users to send messages to nearby players.
The messages are scrawled on the touch screen with the stylus.
More than 100 companies have signed on to create games for Nintendo DS, the company said. Nintendo is already developing the first 20 titles. A demo version of "Metroid Prime: Hunters, First Hunt,"a first-person adventure series, will be packaged with the device.
Nintendo expects to ship 4 million DS units worldwide by the end of March, up from its previous forecast of 3.5 million.
"It could even surpass that," said George Harrison, Nintendo's senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications. "Everything is preceding without any problem."
The Kyoto, Japan-based company, which has its North American headquarters in Redmond, expects to spend $40 million on marketing, the largest budget of any Nintendo handheld so far. Included in that budget will be public relations, TV and print ads and interactive game terminals in stores.
"We are aggressively launching the DS with the largest support here at Nintendo that we have ever put behind a new system launch," Fils-Aime said.
At Sony, the new slimmed-down console weighs just under two pounds, about half that of the market-leading PlayStation 2.
It still includes a DVD movie-playback feature and has added a built-in port and modem jack for online gaming. The older model required a $40 adapter to play online.
Sony is also planning to introduce a handheld unit, called the PlayStation Portable or PSP, but that isn't due out until next year.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report. Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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