Nintendo shows off Wii controller

But at press event before E3, company says pricing talk would divert attention from console's game roster. Photos: Nintendo Wii swings into action

LOS ANGELES--Nintendo joined the E3 press conference parade on Tuesday morning with an event high on bright lights and suspense but low on news.

Many who attended the event, held in the same Kodak Theater where the Academy Awards take place, anticipated that Nintendo would unveil specific pricing and availability information for its forthcoming next-generation console, the puzzlingly named Wii .

That expectation was especially true after Sony said for the first time at its press conference Monday evening that its PlayStation 3 would hit store shelves on Nov. 17 in North America and would come in two models, a $599 version with a 60GB hard drive and a $499 model with a 20GB hard drive.

Instead, the highlight of Nintendo's press event was the first detailed demonstration of the Wii controller, a two-handed, motion-sensitive system that allows players to mimic actions on-screen with the movement of their hands. Thus, for example, users playing a tennis game will be able to serve by raising their controller above their head and swinging down. Similarly, fighting games will allow players to swing swords or shoot bows and arrows with hand movements.

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Video: See Nintendo's next-gen console, Wii
Conduct an orchestra or play tennis with a flick of the wrist.

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Video: Playing games on the 'Wii'
Nintendo shows off Wii titles like the new "Legend of Zelda".

Asked why Nintendo didn't release pricing and availability information for the Wii (the company said only that the product will be available in the fourth quarter of 2006), Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo executive vice president for sales and marketing, told CNET News.com that the company isn't interested in diverting attention from the roster of 27 Wii games and the controller system it's showing at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this week.

"We want (E3) to be about the gaming experience," Fils-Aime said. "Price and availability information becomes a distraction from the playing experience."

Meanwhile, Nintendo briefly addressed the tepid reaction it has gotten for the console's new name, Wii, (it was previously known as the "Revolution").

"We want to thank everyone who wrote good things about it the day you heard about it," Fils-Aime said during his presentation. "Both of you."

But he told CNET News.com that new names always take some getting used to and that Nintendo feels the name (pronounced "we") is very appropriate because it infers inclusion and approachability.

In any case, while Nintendo isn't saying how much Wii will cost, it seems clear it will cost less than both the PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360. That's partly because Nintendo is targeting both hard-core gamers and the mass audience of potential players who want simple, fun games that don't require deep game-playing experience.

Nintendo also said it would soon launch the Nintendo DS Lite, a smaller version of its popular DS dual-screen handheld console, which it said had sold 16 million units since launch in late 2004.

And while the company wouldn't say how many Wii titles would be available on launch--which it promised would be in the fourth quarter of 2006, it did say there are 27 titles on display at E3 from publishers like Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, THQ, Square Enix and others. And those titles include formidable franchises like EA's "Madden NFL," Square Enix's "Final Fantasy" and others.

 

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