TOKYO Japanese video game maker Nintendo Co Ltd will likely launch a new model of its top-selling handheld player, the DS, in overseas markets by the summer of 2009, President Satoru Iwata said.
Nintendo will start selling the DSi, which can take pictures, play music and is slimmer than the current model, in Japan on Saturday for 18,900 yen ($192), in a move to revive slowing domestic sales ahead of the critical holiday season.
"Specific plans will be unveiled by our local subsidiaries, but an autumn or year-end launch would probably be too late," Iwata told a meeting with analysts and reporters on Friday.
Nintendo previously said it planned an overseas DSi launch in 2009.
DS sales in the April-September fiscal first half grew 3 percent from a year earlier to 13.73 million units worldwide, beating Sony Corp's PlayStation Portable by 2-to-1.
But in Japan, Nintendo saw its DS sales fall 64 percent in the same period, raising concerns that the market-leading handheld machine may be losing momentum in Nintendo's home market.
The DS and Wii console, which has outstripped both Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Corp's Xbox 360 in global sales, have been Nintendo's twin growth engines in recent years.
Nintendo said it has shipped 200,000 units of the DSi for sales in the three-day weekend from Saturday, and plans to ship an additional 100,000 units in the week starting November 4.
Iwata said he continues to see robust demand for its game hardware and software despite the global economic slowdown, reiterating his comments at its earnings news conference on Thursday.
"With the business environment having changed this much, we of course need to stay alert. But so far I haven't seen even the slightest sign that overseas DS and Wii demand is being affected by the economy," Iwata said.
Shares in Nintendo closed unchanged at 30,600 yen, while the benchmark Nikkei average lost 5 percent.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Hugh Lawson)