Nintendo Wii U to launch in US, Europe starting in November, will work as DVR

The company's newest game console will link with streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon

Nintendo said Thursday that its new Wii U game console will go on sale starting in November in the U.S. and Europe, and will also work as a home entertainment center, connecting with video streaming services.

In simultaneous online presentations in Japan, North America and Europe, the company confirmed that the console will be launched in time for the crucial holiday season. The console will come in a basic version with 8GB of internal memory that will cost US$299.99, and one with 32GB of memory for $349.99.

The company demonstrated how the game console, which comes with a single game controller equipped with its own touchscreen, will also serve as an entertainment center, allowing users to stream video content from Hulu, Amazon and Netflix to their TV sets. The touchpad will show additional content, such as box scores and statistics for sports broadcasts, a timeline of key moments for TV shows, and previews for movie services.

The console will launch in the U.S. on Nov. 18, then in Europe on Nov. 30. Those regions will get the console before Japan -- earlier Thursday, Nintendo said the Wii U will go on sale in its home country on Dec. 8.

In the U.S. broadcast, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime stressed that the console will have a full complement of games early in its launch. The lack of games available for Nintendo's 3DS handheld launch last year was a major reason that device stumbled after it went on sale, forcing the game company to slash prices.

"It's still a little too early to guarantee exactly which games will be here for you on launch day itself and which will come shortly thereafter," he said. "But I can assure you that this launch library, beginning on day one, will be the strongest for any Nintendo home platform in our history."

He said over 50 games would be available from the launch through the end of March 2013.

Nintendo showed a new version of its classic "Super Mario Brothers" franchise for the Wii U, as well as a version of "Metroid." It also said more serious gaming titles, including "Call of Duty Black Ops 2," a "Transformer" title, and the successor to the "Bayonetta" combat game are on the way.

The game company has long tried to market its hardware at less extreme gamers, featuring family play and titles aimed at women. But the titles show it also intends to pursue the "hard-core" game market along with rivals Sony and Microsoft.

The ability to use the Wii U as a home entertainment center means Nintendo will compete with companies like Sony, which has emphasized its networked music and video offerings' availability through its PlayStation franchise.

Both versions of the Wii U come with a single "GamePad," which is similar to a full-fledged handheld console in itself, with a touchscreen, motion detection, camera and stylus. Its small screen can be used to supplement games played on a larger TV or serve as the main display. 

In game demonstrations, the company showed how the controller can be used for two-player gaming, with one user playing on the main TV screen and another on the GamePad.The main console will use NFC (near field communication) technology that is widely used in mobile payment systems, as well as an expanded online system that includes game play and social networks based around various titles.

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Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service

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