Nintendo’s Wii U console hits shelves in Japan

Kyodo

Nintendo Co. launched its new Wii U game console in Japan on Saturday, aiming to stage a comeback in a market increasingly dominated by growth in games played on mobile phones.

The game console and software maker is hoping that the successor to the Wii, released in 2006, will turn around its business after posting a net loss of ¥43.2 billion last year due to sluggish sales and the strong yen.

The console comes with a controller called the Wii U GamePad, which has an embedded touch screen so people can play games on their television or just on the GamePad screen.

The suggested retail price is ¥26,250 for the 8-gigabyte model and ¥31,500 for the 32-gigabyte model.

In Osaka, around 80 people lined up at a Yodobashi Camera before it opened at 8 a.m.

“I came to buy (the Wii U) as a Christmas present for my grandchild,” said 60-year-old Isamu Hatanaka of Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture.

“I’m looking forward to being able to play games on the controller without having to turn on the TV,” company employee Yuta Horibe, 24, said.

The Bic Camera in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro area had more than 300 people waiting outside when it opened at 8 a.m.

Nintendo’s new console got off to a good beginning in the United States, where more than 425,000 were sold in the first seven days after its launch on Nov. 18, according to Nintendo. It was also released in Europe ahead of Japan.

“It was a good start,” Nintendo spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa said of the U.S. launch, adding that the product has sold out in the United States.

“We’d like to keep this momentum next year,” he said.

Minagawa said Nintendo expects the Wii U to draw brisk demand throughout Japan, based on the number of advance orders.

The Kyoto-based company plans to sell 5.5 million consoles and 24 million games by the end of next March.

“The sales of the Wii U seem favorable so far,” said Etsuko Tamura, an analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities Co., adding that the company may face a supply shortage.

With demand currently exceeding supply, whether the company can achieve its sales target will depend on if it can secure enough production capacity, she said.

Meanwhile, it is possible that Wii U business could have a significant impact on the company’s performance starting next business year, Tamura said.

“The key will be whether it can expand its downloadable content and other operations via the new console,” she added.

Japan’s gaming market is marked by fast expansion of social games, which can be played on mobile phones and other portable devices without users having to buy dedicated consoles.

According to game magazine publisher Enterbrain Inc., the domestic market for software for home consoles shrank in 2011 for the fifth straight year, down about 14 percent from the previous year to ¥274.6 billion, while the game market for smartphones and other portable devices grew some 89 percent to ¥211.7 billion in revenue generated solely from Internet social networking services.