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Nintendo 3DS delay casts gloom over games giant

Nintendo's struggle to bring its hotly anticipated 3D-capable player to the market has sparked concerns over the outlook for the company, with sales of its existing products sliding in key US and European markets.

Nintendo shares fell more than 9 per cent on Thursday after the video game maker slashed its profit forecast for the year and said its new 3D-capable handheld player would miss the crucial year-end shopping season.

"We had been expecting a November launch for Japan, so the news was a disappointment," said Singapore-based analyst Atul Goyal of CLSA. "With a delayed product launch, the stock should be in a twilight zone, where it may not do much for the next five-to-six months."

Many analysts had factored in a 2011 launch for the United States, but were taken aback by the late Japan sales date, set for late February.

Nintendo blamed the strong yen and lack of hit software for its existing handheld DS and Wii home game consoles, as well as the late launch of the new product, for a downward revision to its profit forecasts.

The new Nintendo 3DS, boasting a display that can be used without special glasses, set gamers abuzz at the E3 gameshow earlier in the year and was seen as key to reviving the company's sagging sales.

Nintendo shares were down 9.3 per cent at 20,870 yen at 1:03 a.m. ET, heading for their biggest one-day drop in nearly 20 months. Volume spiked to 2.7 million shares, already 4 times the daily average over the past three months.

The stock fell as low as 20,770 yen, a level last seen in December 2009.

The launch delay will put the pre-holiday spotlight on rivals Sony Corp and Microsoft Corp, whose new motion-controlled gaming accessories will be in stores in time for the peak shopping season in all major markets.

Based on Thomson Reuters StarMine's Analysts Revision Model, a measure of change in analyst sentiment, Nintendo ranks in the bottom percentile, placing it below Sony and Microsoft.

Nintendo will not launch the new version of its DS until 26 February in Japan and March in the United States, by far the biggest market for the game machine maker.

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata blamed the delay on inability to meet anticipated demand within the year.

"They are struggling with product transitions," said Jay Defibaugh, a game sector analyst at MF Global in Tokyo.

"Those are struggles that will be ongoing for the next couple years for their Wii and 3DS, and I think that raises red flags among investors for the company's fundamentals over the medium term."

At 25,000 yen ($299), the new model is also priced substantially higher than existing DS models, raising some doubts about likely sales volumes.

Nintendo's Thursday stock tumble was an extension of a 3.7-percent fall on Wednesday in a late-day sell-off triggered by the announcement of the product delay in the last few minutes of trade.

Shares in Mitsumi Electric, a maker of parts for Nintendo games, also fell 6.1 percent to 1,295 yen on Thursday.