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Gaming

Nintendo hopes sex can sell new device

TV spots for new DS handheld tease with a woman's sultry voice that invites viewers to come closer and get a feel.

Japanese game maker Nintendo is sexing up its U.S. advertising to launch the DS handheld, promising mature players that the gadget is not their little brother's Game Boy.

The No. 1 maker of handheld game devices is spending $40 million in its largest product launch, bracing for all-out war with Sony, which is expected to debut a portable device soon after the Nintendo DS hits U.S. stores on Nov. 21.

But in an unusual move for Nintendo, known for games featuring animated characters Mario and Pokemon, the new ads aim to titillate with the tagline "Touching is Good."

Teaser spots start on Monday, playing up the dual-screen device's touch controls. A woman's sultry voice invites the viewer to come a little closer and get a feel.

"When you're a kid, you're always told you can't touch anything," said Perrin Kaplan, vice president of marketing at Nintendo of America. "Touching is good. You're grown-up now, so read it how you want."

Nintendo spent $27 million on U.S. advertising in the first half of 2004, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

In another departure, Nintendo will launch the DS model in the United States before Japan to capitalize on the earlier holiday-shopping season. The strategy adds a positive marketing edge for U.S. gamers keen on a first stab at new gadgets.

Print ads appear in young men's magazines Maxim and Blender, with a buxom woman holding a DS model and advising, "How to score!...Start listening to her needs, playa!"

Longer television commercials will air from Nov. 18 on programs such as animated comedy "South Park." Leo Burnett, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Publicis Groupe, created the ads.

Industry analysts said Nintendo's ads should draw young adults who are keen on gadgets and the image they project.

"The Game Boy Advance has always been a kids' platform," said Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter. "The DS is going to move up the age scale...and they are going to put some more mature content on there."

Nintendo's aggressive pricing of $149 for the new model is expected to be well below the cost for the Sony PlayStation Portable, which plays music and movies. But both are vying for a more upscale audience.

"Nintendo is differentiating products in a category they already own," said P.J. McNealy of American Technology Research. "Hard-core enthusiasts will buy both (devices). The mainstream won't until the prices come down."

Story Copyright  © 2004 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.