Will the Wii be a set-top box?

Game maker, happy also with demand for the DS, has created a service in Japan that lets consumers get TV listings, TV Guide Network-style, via the Wii.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif--Will Nintendo try to turn its Wii console into a platform for delivering movies and other content to consumers? The company is experimenting with it.

The company has created a service in Japan that lets consumers get TV listings via the Wii, Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, said at the Dow Jones Consumer Technology Innovations Conference taking place here this week.

Nintendo went forward with the project because a TV Guide Network-like service similar to what Nintendo is offering didn't exist. (TV in Japan is notoriously weird: in the past, PCs and TVs had to be fitted with an array of tuners to get all channels).

There are no plans to bring something like this to the United States at the moment, he said, but Nintendo is always looking around. "There are other channel opportunities," he said. "They may look like games. They may not look like games."

Fils-Aime was quite less vague when it came to talking about why the Wii console and DS handheld are doing well . One reason, of course, is that Nintendo is reaching out to a wider variety of consumers than the other guys.

The company also placed a bet on interactivity when Sony and Microsoft put their efforts behind boosting the graphics on their games.

The next big hardware change for the Wii will be the Wii Fit, an exercise-like board that will let consumers literally put their feet in the game. You stand on it and shift your feet and weight to play the game.

Some examples of possible games include Pilates, aerobics, stretching, and skiing. Fils-Aime himself has suggested a tennis game. Nintendo's Wii has tennis now, but it involves only your arm. With the Fit board, players would shift their feet when swinging a racket.

Along with the Fit, Nintendo will additionally bring more of its classic games to its newer platforms.

Nintendo also spends less on its games than its competitors do.

Developing a game for the DS costs a few hundred thousand dollars. Thus, Nintendo has to sell 100,000 only copies of a game to make money on it.

Wii games cost a little more. Developing a game for Wii might cost $5 million to $10 million, including all of the marketing costs.

By contrast, developing a game for the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 can cost $20 million to $50 million, Fils-Aime asserted. As a result, a developer needs to sell 1.3 million to 1.5 million copies of a game to turn a profit, he argued.

"That's a pretty dramatic difference," Fils-Aime said.

While Sony and Microsoft executives may argue with some of his figures, this is clearly the good ol' days for Fils-Aime and Nintendo. The company has already sold 53 million DS handhelds. "It is on track to be the fastest-selling console, period," he said.

The Wii isn't doing too bad either. Late last year, Nintendo predicted that it would sell 14.5 million consoles in 2007, a high number that has been since raised to 17.5 million, he said. Right now, Nintendo is selling about 1.8 million consoles a month.

Two weeks ago, the company had its biggest sales week ever. Last week, it surpassed that record, he noted. As a result, the console is tough to find for a second holiday season in a row.

"At this point, we are literally trying to catch up with demand," he said. There is no secret plan to store Wiis in a warehouse to spur demand. The company, after all, is trying to reach out to women and to 40- and 50-year-olds who aren't avid gamers.

"They aren't going to sleep outside of a store overnight or visit a retailer five or six times," he said. "It is literally a missed opportunity."

 

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