Nintendo plans Mii channel for Wiis

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Nintendo is developing a new channel for its Wii console that will allow gamers to compare their Miis -- customized virtual avatars that people can play in Wii video games.

During a speech at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Nintendo's legendary game creator Shigero Miyamoto said the channel, to launch soon, will enable gamers to not only share their custom avatars, but vote on them in popularity contests, adding another level of stickiness to the online functionality of Nintendo's $250 next-generation console.

Wii also has channels that deliver real-time news and weather to gamers, who can also purchase and download classic Nintendo, Sega, Neo Geo and TurboGrafix 16 games for $5 to $10 each.

Miyamoto, the creator of such game characters as Donkey Kong, Mario and Link, pointed out that the video game industry, including himself, has been wrong for years. He noted that with each new console, controls became more complex and games more difficult to play. The games business was alienating the very audience they were trying to attract.

But the success of Nintendo DS and Wii, Miyamoto said, shows that simple, fun gameplay experiences, not high-definition graphics and photorealism, are the keys to growing the video game audience. Both consoles have been sold quickly at retail.

Nintendo DS, with games like "Nintendogs" and "Brain Age," has attracted nontraditional gamers and hardcore fans with its dual touch-screen pads. Wii, which allows players to interact physically with games like "Wii Sports" and "Excite Truck," has opened gaming up to more female players and older gamers.

Miyamoto, who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Game Developer's Choice Awards on Wednesday night, said the first new "Mario" game for Wii, "Super Mario Galaxy," is due this year.
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