June 2nd, 2007, 16:20 Posted By: Triv1um
As it raced past rivals to become the hottest new video-game console, some analysts predicted that Nintendo Co.'s Wii was little more than a fad.
Try telling that to Geoff Allen, who hasn't grown sick of playing the Wii after almost five months. He, his wife and his father all have gotten hooked on "Wii Sports."
"Within minutes, I can have fun," said Allen, a 36-year-old technology entrepreneur from Potomac Falls, Va. "I don't have to spend hours crawling through dungeons and learning all the complex button combos to become proficient. I love the Wii. It makes me happy."
U.S. consumers have snapped up 2.5 million Wii consoles since they hit the market in November. It's a sharp turnaround since the last round of the console wars, when its GameCube was wiped out by Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox.
But Nintendo isn't taking its initial success for granted. At an event here last week, it unveiled a series of games, such as "Mario Strikers Charged" and "Big Brain Academy," aimed at keeping a wide range of players interested, not just teenage boys and traditional video-game enthusiasts. The Osaka, Japan-based company also is relying on girls, women and older players to continue its growth.
Some analysts think the novelty might wear off and, when it does, consumers will stop buying new games for the Wii. The difference between the Wii's graphics and those of its rivals, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, also might become more noticeable as developers create games that take advantage of the more powerful consoles' processing power.
"Its appeal is primarily to casual gamers, and there's a serious question about how long casual gamers will stay engaged with the platform," said Van Baker, a consumer technologies analyst with Gartner Inc., which is based in Stamford, Conn. "It wouldn't be surprising to see them lose interest after a relatively short amount of time."
So far, demand is outstripping supply. Stores are selling out of the Wii within hours of receiving them. Sales of the Wii are so hot, the Japanese company is widely expected to increase its annual sales forecast of 14 million units for its current fiscal year.
It helps that the Wii is $249, compared with the PS3 at $599 and the Xbox 360, priced from $299 to $479, depending on the features. Last month, U.S. consumers bought 360,000 Wii systems, versus 174,000 Xbox 360s and 82,000 PlayStation 3s, according to NPD Group.
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