Japan's Nintendo said Wednesday its new-generation handheld 3D console would go on sale in February, missing the Christmas shopping season.

The Nintendo 3DS, which can be played without the need for special glasses, will debut in Japan on February 26 and cost 25,000 yen (290 dollars), chief executive Satoru Iwata told a news conference in Chiba, near Tokyo.

It will be launched in the United States, Europe and Australia in March. Details are yet to be announced, said Iwata.

Games developers and hardware makers are vying for a piece of the 3D and motion-sensing gaming space as competition between the industry's giants heats up ahead of the traditional rush of new releases in the run-in to Christmas.

Sony has released in Europe and the United States its PlayStation Move system, which enables users wearing special glasses to play 3D games using highly responsive and intuitive wand-shaped motion controllers.

The system, which uses Sony's PlayStation 3 console, will be released in Japan on October 21.

Microsoft's highly anticipated Kinect motion-sensing system for the Xbox 360 videogame console will hit the Japanese market on November 20.

Kinect uses a 3D camera and motion recognition software to let people play videogames using body gestures alone and does not require hand-held controllers.

Microsoft and Sony are looking to close in on Nintendo, which pioneered motion-control gaming with the launch of its hit Wii consoles in 2006 and has outsold both the Xbox and PlayStation3.

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