Nintendo: 25,000-yen Wii hitting Japan December 2

[UPDATE 2] Wii Sports-less console hitting homeland two weeks after US for around $213; virtual console pricing of NES, SNES, and N64 games revealed; classic controller sold separately; 27 games by year's end.

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At right around the same time that US newspaper reports were revealing details about the US launch of the Wii, Nintendo began holding an event in Tokyo to tell Japanese reporters about its launch plans in their country. (The company will reveal its European launch plans on Friday.)

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According to the official Nintendo Web site, the next-gen machine will be slightly cheaper in Japan than in the US. Whereas it will reportedly cost $250 stateside, the console will cost just 25,000 yen (approximately $213) in its land of origin, including tax. The console will also arrive slightly later across the Pacific on December 2, versus November 19 in North and South America. The US-first release scheme is similar to that Nintendo took when it launched the DS in North America in November 2004 and then in Japan two weeks later in December.

The price difference is partially explainable by the fact that the Japanese Wii is not being bundled with Wii Sports, as the Wii is in the US. The Nintendo Web site lists Wii Sports as merely being a launch title and lists it as having a price of 4,800 yen (around $41).

In the US, more than 25 Wii games are expected at launch, with first-party titles reportedly costing $50 apiece. In Japan, 16 titles will be available from 10 publishers and will range in price from 4,800 yen (around $41) to 6,800 yen (about $58). One of those titles will be The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which will retail for 6,800 yen (about $58). In the US, the title will be available by the end of 2006--by which time some 27 games will be available in Japan, according to the Bloomberg news service.

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Presiding over the event, Nintendo of Japan president Satoru Iwata unveiled the pricing scheme for classic games playable via the Wii's virtual console and downloadable via its WiiConnect24 service. NES games will cost 500 yen (around $4.25), SNES games will cost 800 yen ($6.80), and N64 games will go for 1,000 yen ($8.50). It did not give pricing for TurboGrafx, MSX, or Sega Genesis games, which will also be made available. Games can be bought either by credit card or via prepaid point cards, much like those used when making Xbox Live Marketplace purchases.

Perhaps more significantly, Nintendo tipped its hand to its Wii virtual-console release schedule. Iwata announced some 30 titles will be available at launch: American press reports said the initial batch of titles would include the obvious choices of Donkey Kong, Mario, and Zelda titles, and the Japanese demonstration showed that other titles, such as R-Type, were also in the works. Nintendo Japan said the number of retro-games available would increase to 60 by the end of the year. After that, the library will grow by 10 titles a month--a pace that far outstrips Xbox Live Arcade's pseudoweekly release schedule.

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According to Nintendo Japan, the Wii console will come with a standard, so-called "Wii-mote" controller and corded "nunchaku" attachment. Additional Wii-motes will cost 3,800 yen (about $32) each if purchased separately, and extra nunchakus will go for 1,800 yen (around $15) a pop. The console will also come with a wrist strap for the Wii-mote, a power cord, a standard A/V cable, a sensor bar, stands for the console and sensor bar, and AA batteries.

The controller (pictured above right) used for playing classic games on the Wii will be sold separately for 1,800 yen (around $15). However, for a limited time, consumers who purchase a 5,000 point Wii-point card will receive a classic controller for free. The 5,000 point card will retail for 5,000 yen ($42.50), and 3,000-point (3,000 yen/$25.50), and 1,000-point (1,000 yen/$8.50) cards will also be available. No direct US pricing for Wii point cards was available as of press time.

The Wii announcements proved a mild tonic for Nintendo stock. Shares in the company rose 0.4 percent to close at 23,100 yen ($196.25) on the Nikkei exchange.

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