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Nintendo Wii U Debuts in U.S. With Apps, Games, No TV

By Cliff Edwards and Michelle Kaske
November 19, 2012 2:45 PM EST
“The value of Wii U goes well beyond day one,” Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo’s North America president, said in a statement. “Nintendo will be enhancing the Wii U experience with continuous updates and new services for Wii U owners.”
Photographer: Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg
“The value of Wii U goes well beyond day one,” Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo’s North America president, said in a statement. “Nintendo will be enhancing the Wii U experience with continuous updates and new services for Wii U owners.”

Nintendo Co., working to prove it can still succeed by marrying its hardware to exclusive software, began selling the Wii U console amid tight supplies and delays in implementing a new TV-viewing service.

The first new video-game console for U.S. homes since 2006, the Wii U initially won’t offer the Nintendo TVii service that the Kyoto, Japan-based company has touted as a centerpiece of its capabilities. The feature will be available sometime in December, the company said on Nov. 16, without being specific.

“The value of Wii U goes well beyond day one,” Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo’s North America president, said in a statement. “Nintendo will be enhancing the Wii U experience with continuous updates and new services for Wii U owners.”

The device is already sold out in many U.S. stores and probably will be in short supply through at least the end of the week, analyst Tony Wible at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, said today in an e-mail. Individuals reselling the console online are seeking prices around three times the retail price set for the two models, of about $300 and $350, he said.

“Some individual sellers are listing for more than $1,000 in hopes that demand will grow as supply dwindles and the holidays approach,” said Wible.

‘Bucket List’

Nintendo is likely to sell 3.5 million units in the U.S. this year, according to researcher IHS Screen Digest. The company may also sell all it can make in the first six months, said Michael Pachter, a Los Angeles-based analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc. Demand after that may average about 10 million units a year, he said.

Devante Cordero, 16, drove almost two hours with his parents and two sisters to New York City from his home in Pennsylvania to secure one of the first spots in line outside the Nintendo World store at Rockefeller Center. He wanted the latest console, and a chance to meet Fils-Aime.

“He’s awesome,” said Cordero, one of hundreds in line at the store. “If I get to meet him, it’s like a bucket list.”

The Cordero family arrived at the Nintendo store on Nov. 17 at 1 p.m., bundled up in hats, gloves and winter coats as the temperature dropped to 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) in the city. Like many there, they brought folding chairs and portable game consoles to pass the time, said Selina Cordero, 40, Devante’s mother.

Five Players

One appealing feature in the Wii U is that the entire family of five can play at one time, she said. That’s one more than the current system allows.

“Now we can actually really compete as a family,” she said. “No one needs to sit out.”

Isaiah TriForce Johnson, 35, a marketing promoter for Grassroots Gaming, was the first person in line for the Wii U at Rockefeller Center. He first arrived on Oct. 23, then was forced to return home to Brooklyn as Hurricane Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29.

The next day, he walked three hours back to Nintendo World from his home to resume his place at the front of the line. It’s Johnson’s eighth time being the first fan to buy a new system or game, he said.

“I just like being the first,” Johnson said. “It’s no different from being the first in winning in video games. Being the first is the first.”

‘Ground-Breaking’

Nintendo rose 1.3 percent to 10,690 yen at the close of Osaka trading. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 1.4 percent.

Analysts have suggested the company should get out of the business of making hardware that sells for $300 or more and focus on selling popular games based on its iconic Mario and Zelda characters for play on others’ tablets and smartphones. Company executives say they won’t change course.

“By creating software and marrying it to strong hardware, we believe we create ground-breaking experiences,” Fils-Aime said in a September interview.

Sales of the original Wii totaled 5.84 million units in the four months after its November 2006 release, and 18.6 million in the 12 months ended March 2008, according to the company.

Nintendo TVii, controlled by a touch-screen GamePad, provides a gateway to streaming and pay-TV services through a homepage and search engine. The results are integrated so that a user looking for a specific TV show or movie using Nintendo TVii would find options ranging from an online service to a rerun on cable.

Holiday Season

The company also delayed the availability of some online services including Amazon.com Inc.’s Instant Video, and Google Inc. (GOOG)’s YouTube on the Wii U.

The delays could make it more difficult during the crucial holiday shopping season for Nintendo to position the Wii U as a whole-home entertainment center for parents and kids alike.

Pressure is mounting on President Satoru Iwata to repeat the success of the Wii console after the 3DS handheld player failed to meet expectations, prompting the company to cut its profit goal by 70 percent last month.

Nintendo and rival console makers Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Sony Corp. (6758) face increased competition in the game market as consumers turn to smartphones and tablets such as Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad to play free games like “Ruby Blast” and “Hill Climb Racing.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Cliff Edwards in San Francisco at cedwards28@bloomberg.net; Michelle Kaske in New York at mkaske@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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