New Nintendo DS launched as Wii sales tumble

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The Independent Tech

The newest version of Nintendo's popular handhold game console, with its large screen that's easier on the eyes and bigger stylus similar to an ordinary pen, has led some to assume it is intended to lure older gamers.

But the company's president said the new Nintendo DS is designed to let small groups gather around a single device, watching and participating in game play.

This would be a dramatic change - gaming on portable consoles, a popular category that also includes the rival PlayStation Portable from Sony, has until now been a private affair.

"It is bigger and about 100 grams heavier, so it is a little less convenient to carry around, but in exchange we hope it is accepted as a DS that is left on the kitchen table, which is bought for each household and shared among the family," said company President Satoru Iwata.

The new Nintendo DS, called the "LL" for its size, is to go on sale in Japan from November 21 at a suggested price of $220 (£134). It also has larger dual screens that can be seen clearly from sideways as well as straight on, encouraging group play.

If successful Iwata said it could help open up a new market for handheld consoles.

Nintendo could use a boost.

The console was announced late last week on the same day the company said its first-half fiscal profit plunged and forecast annual earnings would fall for the first time in six years.

The well-known maker of Super Mario and Pokemon games has suffered as sales of its Wii set-top console have fallen. The Wii, with an innovative wandlike controller that senses motion, has been a smash hit since its 2006 debut, selling 56.14 million units around the globe.

But sales have fallen recently, and Nintendo has cut prices ahead of the upcoming holiday season.

Iwata said the company's profits were also hurt by the stronger yen, and that a partial recovery was possible during the holiday season as higher demand spurred by the Wii price reduction kicks in. Nintendo's consoles have been more popular gifts than rivals' because of their family-oriented nature and low prices.

Iwata spoke to reporters and analysts at a briefing in central Tokyo.

When asked about other popular portable devices such as Apple's iPhone and Amazon's Kindle electric book reader, he said he was "more interested" in the Kindle because it has a pay-as-you-go business model as opposed to a monthly fee. Iwata said that such a business model was one possibility for future Nintendo devices as well.