Nintendo to launch console next year

Nintendo will sell its megabit Wii console in China and South Korea next year, Nintendo prexy Satoru Iwata told the press in Tokyo on Friday.

Iwata gave no dates for the launches but did say that the current level of production — 1.8 million consoles a month — makes it impossible to move into China and Korea any sooner.

“Unfortunately, we will have to wait for next year,” he said.

Commenting on the rampant piracy, especially in China, that has thwarted other gamemakers, he expressed confidence: “Wii has the advantage in dealing with the piracy problem,” he said, citing its antipiracy architecture. Iwata declined, however, to provide details.

Nintendo is currently selling its popular DS handheld game in China through its local joint venture iQue.

 Iwata added that, for the time being, Nintendo will keep producing Wii at the same pace and market it at the same price. Although Sony has slashed prices on its PlayStation 3 console by nearly $100 to $499 in the U.S., the Wii still costs about half the price of the PS3 and is selling far more briskly. Since its debut in November 2006, the Wii has sold 13.17 million units worldwide, and Nintendo has upped its sales forecast for fiscal 2007 from 16.50 million to 17.50 million.

 The company, however, is not resting on its laurels — or enormous profits, said Iwata, but plans to introduce new Wii online services. One is a gifting feature that allows Wii users to purchase games online to give to other users, who can download and play them. Another is an online service that allows users to check TV schedules. Nintendo will introduce the latter service in Japan in the spring.

 On Thursday Nintendo announced that group net profit for the first half of fiscal 2007 more than doubled to ¥132.42 billion ($1.16 billion) from $473 million in the same period the previous year.

Group sales performed a similarly astonishing leap, rising to $6.07 billion from $2.6 billion in the first half of 2006.

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