• The Associated Press

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Booming sales of the popular Wii and DS game machines lifted Nintendo Co.’s earnings 77 percent for its 2006 business year, showing the Japanese maker is holding its own against bigger rivals Sony and Microsoft.

Nintendo reported group net profit of 174.29 billion yen in the year through March, up dramatically from 98.38 billion yen a year earlier.

Sales soared 90 percent to 966.53 billion yen from 509.25 billion yen in the previous year, powered by brisk sales of its hand-held DS machine and its wand-wielding Wii console, the Kyoto-based maker said.

Nintendo predicts a 0.4 percent rise in group net profit to 175 billion yen for this business year, with an 18 percent rise in sales to 1.140 trillion yen.

The Wii has pummeled its rivals in a head-to-head battle in next-generation video game consoles, including Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 3, which has been plagued with production problems, and Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360.

Nintendo said it sold 5.84 million Wii machines worldwide in the five months since its release late last year, 2.37 million in the Americas and 2.0 million in Japan.

With its diminutive Wiimote — a motion-sensitive, wrist-mounted remote control — the Wii has been a surprise hit with kids, women and older players, catching on far beyond the traditional gamer niche of young men.

In Japan, Wii has outsold the PlayStation 3 almost three-to-one since the machines went on sale late last year, according to the gaming company Enterbrain Inc.

The maker of the “Pokemon” and “Super Mario” games also said it was marking robust sales with its Nintendo DS portable, which sold 16.02 million units worldwide in the latest business quarter.

Selling machines in high volumes is crucial in the gaming business because popular formats attract software companies to make more games, which in turn boost console sales.

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