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Nintendo aims high with low-cost console

Catching US Xmas shoppers

Nintendo hopes to hold its advantage over Sony in the handheld game console market, by selling its DS model for half the price of the new PlayStation Portable.

The console will cost only $150, which is less than half the price that Sony is expected to charge for its PSP. Nintendo also intends releasing the DS in November, to take advantage of the US Christmas market.

The DS is a dual-screened system, with one screen facilitating touch input using either a stylus or an on-screen keyboard.

Nintendo's new device facilitates multiple players, by allowing users to connect to each other across the wired Internet or using Wi-Fi. The console can sense other consoles in near proximity, which not only facilitates impromptu games, but also provides the possibility of online conversation. This is because the new unit includes PictoChat, which can be used to write messages with an on-screen keyboard or the stylus.

Sony's PlayStation Portable also includes novel features to capture the hearts and minds of gaming enthusiasts. The PSP will come with stereo sound and a 4.5-inch colour LCD screen which can play music and movies. PSP games will be delivered on new high-capacity UMD optical discs created especially for the unit. These disks are about half the size of typical CDs or DVDs, but hold 1.8GB of data. Sony also said that with a custom-made processor, built on 90-nanometre technology, the new handheld will have computing power equal to a full-sized PlayStation.

Sony says it will begin selling the PSP in Japan this year, with a US launch next year. The price tag has not been published yet, but it's predicted to be in the region of $299.

Nintendo is the top seller in the $4bn market for handheld game devices and software and has sold almost 170 million units in the past 15 years. Sony and Nokia's N-Gage consoles, however, are attempting to take away some of Nintendo's market by introducing new features and encouraging adults to buy the units.


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