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Nintendo Prepares to Roll Out New Portable

15 Oct, 2004 By: John Gaudiosi

SEATTLE — Nintendo of America unveiled working versions of its new $149.99 DS portable gaming system here. The system will make its worldwide debut in North America Nov. 21 with about a dozen games at $29.99.

Nintendo will have 1 million hardware units of its DS available between launch and year-end with about 600,000 to 700,000 units earmarked for launch day, according to the company. By the end of March 2005, Nintendo will ship another 1 million hardware units in North America as part of 4 million units shipping worldwide between launch and the end of its fiscal year. North America will get at least half of the units made available in the first five months. But that may not be enough to prevent shortages this holiday.

“We'll likely have Nintendo DS shortages because the buzz is so hot in the marketplace for this device,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, EVP, sales and marketing, Nintendo of America.

The hardware shortages could be a positive for rental chains fortunate to track down Nintendo DS this fall. The large number of launch titles is another incentive, since consumers will likely try out these games before committing.

In addition to the dozen games available at launch, 600 GBA games will be playable on the system. “With Metroid, Madden and Tiger Woods, Nintendo is targeting the 18- to 34-year-old demographic [with DS] instead of the 10- to 18-year-old audience,” said P.J. McNealy, video game analyst, American Technology Research. “Nintendo already owns the kid's market, and Nintendo DS's backward-compatibility gives it a huge library of kids titles.”

Nintendo will begin marketing the dual-screen device this month as part of a $40 million North American campaign — the largest push for a Nintendo product in the company's history.

The TV campaign will initially focus on the hardware itself, rather than a key breakthrough game, said George Harrison, SVP, marketing and communications, Nintendo of America.

With a new portable coming and sales of GBA SP making up more than 85 percent of portable sales, Harrison said Nintendo will phase out the original Game Boy Advance this year. Analysts said the company is working with key retailers like Wal-Mart to rid remaining stock of the old device from store shelves around Thanksgiving. Wal-Mart offered $49 Game Boy Colors the Thanksgiving after GBA SP launched and similar sales are expected this fall.

“Nintendo is defending its portable gaming turf by broadening its reach with Nintendo DS,” McNealy said.

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