Nintendo Co. began selling its Wii U home console in the United States on Sunday amid tight supplies and delays in implementing a new TV-viewing service, aiming to prove it can still succeed by marrying its hardware to exclusive software.
The first new video-game console put on the U.S. market since 2006, the Wii U will not initially offer the Nintendo TVii service that has been touted by the Kyoto-based company as one of its most appealing extra features. This feature will become available sometime in December, the company announced Friday, without providing specific details.
“The value of the Wii U goes well beyond day one,” Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America Inc.’s president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “Nintendo will be enhancing the Wii U experience with continuous updates and new services for Wii U owners.”
Analysts have suggested the company should pull out of the business of making hardware that sells for $300 (about ¥24,400) or more, and focus instead on selling popular video games based on its iconic Mario and Zelda characters for play on other manufacturers’ tablets and smartphones. Nintendo executives say they have no plans to change course, however.
“By creating software and marrying it to strong hardware, we believe we can create groundbreaking experiences,” Fils-Aime said in a September interview.
Nintendo is expected to sell 3.5 million Wii U consoles in the United States this year, according to researcher IHS Screen Digest. The company may sell all it can make in the first six months, and average demand after that could total around 10 million units annually, said Michael Pachter, a Los Angeles-based analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc.
By comparison, sales of the original Wii console totaled 5.84 million units in the four months after its November 2006 release, and 18.6 million in the 12 months through March 2008, according Nintendo.
Nintendo TVii, controlled by a touch-screen GamePad, provides a gateway to streaming and pay-TV services via a homepage and search engine. The results are integrated so a user looking for a specific television show or movie using Nintendo TVii will be able to find options ranging from online services to reruns on cable.
Nintendo has also delayed the release of online services, including Amazon.com’s Instant Video, Google Inc.’s YouTube and Netflix on the Wii U.
The postponement could make it more difficult for Nintendo to position the Wii U as a total home entertainment center for parents and children alike during the crucial holiday shopping season.
Pressure is mounting on Nintendo President Satoru Iwata to repeat the success of the Wii console after the company’s 3DS handheld player failed to meet expectations, prompting it to cut its profit projections by 70 percent last month.
Nintendo and rival console makers Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. are facing increased competition in the game market as consumers turn to smartphones and tablets to play free games, including “Ruby Blast” and “Hill Climb Racing.”
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