By Scott Hillis
SAN FRANCISCO, June 14 The novelty of Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s 7974.OS Wii video game console could wear off by next year, a top executive at game publisher Sega said on Thursday, offering an unusual note of skepticism over the hit machine.
The Wii has been the top-selling console for several months as its low price and unique motion-sensing controller attract fans outside the traditional gaming audience.
But the system's dated graphics and lack of technological bells and whistles found on rival machines from Sony Corp. (6758.T) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O) may hamper its long-term viability, said Scott Steinberg, vice president of marketing for the U.S. unit of Sega Sammy Holdings Inc.(6460.T)
Sega makes games for the three major game consoles -- Wii, Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360.
"I am a little concerned about the creative depth of the Wii pool," Steinberg said in an interview. "I'm not sure if they will top out in 2008 or 2007."
"The Wii will start to look really dated in a couple years when developers get more value from the 360 and learn more and more about the PlayStation 3," Steinberg said.
Many game publishers have been devoting more development resources to the Wii.
Electronic Arts Inc. ERTS.O, the world's biggest game publisher, said last month it would start producing more Wii titles while France's Ubisoft UBI.PA also said it would make more games designed specifically for the Wii rather than just copying over games created for other machines.
"They are expanding the market, expanding the demographic, expanding the reach. Their approach is, let's make a game machine for the masses," John Schappert, head of EA's worldwide studios, told Reuters in a recent interview.
"They've got a machine that's covering all spectrums and it's additive to our business," Schappert said.
Sega is also making games for the Wii, with "Ghost Squad" and "Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games" scheduled to come out later this year.
"But how much value can developers and creative folks get out of this wrist motion two years from now, or 5 years from now, or 10 years from now?" Steinberg said.
"How can they design products that aren't too derivative of what's already out there?"
Sega expects Sony's PlayStation 3 will be the ultimate winner in this round of the console battle.
The $600 Sony machine has struggled to win customers, but Sony says its graphical power and built-in high-definition Blu-ray DVD player will give it appeal for 10 years.
"We know the PS3 pool is pretty deep. There's a lot to exploit there," Steinberg said.
((Reporting by Scott Hillis, editing by Gary Hill, San Francisco Newsroom, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 415 677 2505)) Keywords: SEGA WII/
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