* To debut new key software in June to revitalise Wii
* Plans no hardware price cuts at the moment
* Strong initial demand for DSi in North America, Europe
* Shares end 2.6 pct lower vs Nikkei's 3.7 pct gain
(Adds analyst quote, details)
By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Sachi Izumi
TOKYO, April 9 Nintendo Co Ltd 7974.OS said
sales of its Wii game console have lost some steam in Japan,
but it aims to boost demand again by launching a new version of
its blockbuster "Wii Sports" software in June.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said he had no plan to cut
hardware prices. "Wii (demand) is not vigorous at the moment in
Japan," Iwata told reporters at a lunch meeting. "In fact, it
is in the most unhealthy situation since its launch in Japan."
"If our products are not much different from competitors',
price cuts would generate significant fresh demand. But video
games are just not that kind of product."
The Wii far outsells Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) Xbox 360 and
Sony Corp's (6758.T) PlayStation 3 globally.
But in Japan, sales of the PS3 outstripped those of the Wii
in March for the first time in 16 months thanks to new PS3
titles from Sega Sammy (6460.T) and Capcom (9697.T), game
magazine publisher Enterbrain said this week.
In a bid to put vigour back into Wii sales, Nintendo plans
to launch "Wii Sports Resort" in June in its home market,
followed by overseas release in July.
Nintendo's earlier "Wii Sports" game helped drive its
console sales. The game allows users to play baseball, tennis
and other sports using a motion-sensing controller.
Wii Sports Resort lets users throw a frisbee to a virtual
dog or duel one another with swords with the controller, which
looks like a TV remote and enables gamers to direct on-screen
play by swinging it like a racket or baseball bat.
Strong sales of both the Wii and Nintendo's handheld DS
player despite the global economic slowdown had led the company
to expect a record 530 billion yen operating profit for the
year that ended on March 31.
That contrasts sharply with other major Japanese exporters
such as Sony and Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), which are set to
post billions of dollars of losses for the business year just
ended amid slumping demand and a strengthening yen.
Nintendo's shares closed down 2.6 percent at 28,000 yen,
while the benchmark Nikkei average .N225 gained 3.7 percent.
NEW DS DEBUT
"The software is one of the key games Nintendo will launch
this business year," Rakuten Securities analyst Yasuo Imanaka
said. "I think it will definitely be software that can propel
sales of hardware," he said.
Nintendo first showed its Wii Sports Resort game to the
media last July, along with "Wii Music", which lets players
simulate more than 60 different instruments. Back then, it said
it would launch the sports game in spring 2009.
Iwata said the latest model of its DS handheld gear, the
DSi, met brisk initial demand when it was launched in North
America and Europe earlier this month, selling 300,000 units in
each region in the first two days.
"The DSi has received a warm welcome around the world,"
Nintendo's strategy to broaden the gaming population by
offering intuitive and easy-to-play games, rather than focusing
on high-speed plays and life-like graphics for core gamers, has
Industry specialists say video games are generally better
positioned to weather a slowing economy than such big ticket
items as cars and flat TVs.
Nintendo said in January it aimed to sell 31.5 million
units of the DS and 26.5 million units of the Wii in the year
that ended in March.
(Editing by Hugh Lawson and Anshuman Daga)