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Nintendo edges into online gaming

The GameCube maker's cautious move into online gaming kicks off with the release of Internet adapters for the console. Also, the EU hits the company with a $147 million price-fixing fine.

Nintendo kicked off its modest online plans Wednesday with the release of Internet adapters for its GameCube console.

The online add-ons consist of a modem for dial-up Internet access and a network adapter for tapping into a high-speed DSL or cable modem.

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Each sells for $35 and allows the GameCube to make an online connection through any Internet service.

What the game console will do online is still a question, however. For now, the only GameCube title that can take advantage of online play is a new version of Sega's "Phantasy Star Online," a fantasy role-playing game that requires a $9-a-month subscription for access to online features.

Nintendo and third-party publishers have been deliberately cautious about embracing the online world, saying there needs to be a proven business model to justify further investment.

By contrast, Microsoft is investing heavily in Xbox Live, the upcoming online service for its game machine. Sony is taking a more conservative approach with online services for its PlayStation 2, letting publishers foot most of the bill for getting games online.

Antitrust fine
Separately, the Japanese games giant was hit the same day with a $147 million (168 million, euro) fine by the European Union for alleged price-fixing.

The European Union case found that Nintendo and some of its European distributors--who were assessed an additional $17 million in fines--illegally colluded during the 1990s to sell game products at significantly different prices in various parts of Europe. Consoles and games sold for up to 65 percent more in Germany and the Netherlands than in England, according to the complaint, and Nintendo ensured that goods intended for sale in one country were not available in others, in violation of EU treaties.

"Every year, millions of European families spend large amounts of money on video games," European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said in a statement. "They have the right to buy the games and consoles at the lowest price the market can possibly offer, and we will not tolerate collusive behavior intended to keep prices artificially high."

Nintendo representatives have not disputed the charges but have said the company will appeal the size of the fine.