TOKYO (AFP) — Nintendo Co., riding high on the success of the Wii, said Thursday that it will launch a new version of its popular DS handheld console next month with a built-in camera and enhanced audio capabilities.
The dual-screen DSi will go on sale in Japan from November 1 with a price tag of 18,900 yen (178 dollars), the Japanese video game giant said. It will be launched in overseas markets some time next year.
"We want everyone to have their own individual machine," Nintendo president and chief executive Satoru Iwata told a press conference. "For those households who already have a DS that they share among family members, I want them to have one for each member."
The Nintendo DS is the most successful game console in Japanese history, having sold 23 million machines in the domestic market, surpassing Sony's PlayStation 2, he said.
The new console will have a similar design to the DS Lite, but will be slimmer and have slightly larger 3.25-inch screens.
Nintendo said the camera and improved sound features should inspire fresh ideas for games and open up new possibilities for users.
It can be used as a photo album and enables users to change the facial expressions of the people in the pictures or draw flowers or other graphics around their favourite pet.
"We want our customers to individualise their Nintendo DSi," Iwata said.
"If we could propose a new lifestyle with a handheld game console, we believe the Nintendo DS platform still has more room to expand," he said.
The machine has been a big hit with people of all ages and backgrounds, Iwata said, adding that 54 percent of Nintendo DS users were women.
The console's success has been helped by the popularity of "brain-training" and other games aimed at broadening its appeal.
The Kyoto-based company is also enjoying strong sales of its Wii home video game console, which is known for its innovative motion-sensitive controller and is aimed at people who normally would not play video games.
Iwata said his firm was improving the Wii to give it a bigger memory capacity, addressing one of the key concerns of users.
Nintendo was trying to encourage more Wii users to connect their machine to the Internet to enjoy an enhanced gaming experience, as the firm has learned that many owners are not frequent Internet users, he said.
As the Christmas sales season draws near, the company and game developers are releasing a variety of new game titles.
"Our challenge continues until all of our customers come to feel that the lineup of our products is something that they can truly and fully enjoy," Iwata said.
Nintendo shares ended 1,500 yen, or 3.66 percent, lower at 39,500 yen, as the benchmark Nikkei index fell 1.88 percent on worries about the financial crisis.
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