Nintendo exec fights recession

Wii sales drop sharply in Japan

TOKYO -- Nintendo president Satoru Iwata touted the recession-proof resilience of his company's products at a rare press conference Thursday, even as he acknowledged that Wii sales in Japan have fallen sharper than expected in recent months.

But the company's immediate future may lie more with the portable DSi than the headline-grabbing Wii.

Although the Wii beat the PlayStation 2 in becoming the fastest games machine to pass the 50 million sales mark worldwide last month, other news has been less positive recently for the console.

Domestic sales figures for the last week in March, from Japan's Media Create, show that while Nintendo's DSi had regained the top spot with 57,401 units, the Wii was once again in fourth place behind Sony's PlayStation 3 and PlayStationPortable, with 17,276 consoles sold.

"It's true that the Wii is not really moving in Japan now, and it's the worst patch since its launch," Iwata said at Thursday's press event. "The Wii sold on the back of a few select titles and that's not sustainable."

The Wii has expanded the gaming market to older and more female users since its launch in November 2006, although recent data from Nielsen also shows these casual gamers use it less frequently and for shorter periods than Xbox or PlayStations.

Iwata pointed out that much of the recent growth in the video game market in the U.S. and Europe has been due to sales of Nintendo hardware and related software. The European market has doubled from €5 billion to €10 billion ($13.3 billion) between 2005 and 2008, he said.

The April 5 launch of the updated DSi portable console in the U.S. also has been a success, according to Iwata, with preliminary figures showing 300,000 units moved in the first two days.
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