April 25, 2011 at 1:19 PM ET
Nintendo announced on Monday that it will launch a successor to its best-selling Wii game machine and that it will "offer a new way of playing games."
The new machine will launch sometime during 2012, Nintendo announced at a news conference in Japan on Monday.
However, company representatives did not reveal details about the machine and said instead they will unveil the Wii's replacement for the first time in Los Angeles on June 7 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo.
"As for the details of exactly what it will be, we have decided that it is best to let people experience it for themselves at E3," Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata said, according to a report from Reuters. "So I won't talk about specific details today, but it will offer a new way of playing games within the home."
The announcement came as the Japan-based Nintendo revealed that profits had fallen to a seven-year low.
Nintendo's aging Wii has certainly been facing growing competition from the more powerful Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game machines – both of which now feature motion controls (something that had previously set the Wii apart). Meanwhile Nintendo's handheld DS game machines have been facing intense competition from smartphones, which often double as portable game machines.
Rumors had recently begun circulating that Nintendo would reveal a successor to the Wii. And according to leaks from multiple anonymous sources, the Wii 2 will feature controllers with touchscreens, will be capable of running games in HD resolutions and will be more powerful than the Xbox 360 and the PS3.
The machine is also reportedly being developed under the codename Project Cafe and, according to a report from IGN, will be capable of streaming games to each controller, will be around the same size as the first-generation Xbox 360 and could cost between $350 and $400.
Nintendo has not commented on those rumors. However, it appears the new Nintendo game machine is unlikely to involve 3-D gameplay.
"It's difficult to make 3-D images a key feature, because 3-D televisions haven't obtained wide acceptance yet," Iwata said, according to Bloomberg.
That statement is similar to one other Nintendo representatives have made in the past.
Monday's announcement certainly seems timed to give Nintendo a much-needed shot in the arm.
Nintendo said on Monday that it expects profits to remain almost flat in the current financial year, despite the launch of its much-touted 3DS game machine whose sales in Japan have been overshadowed by the devastating March 11 earthquake.
In the business year just ended, Wii console sales fell to 15.1 million units from 20.1 million a year earlier. Nintendo representatives said they expect sales to fall by a further 2 million units this business year.
Sales of its non-3D handheld DS shrank by almost 10 million units to 17.5 million, and the company expects that to slide to 11 million this year.
Certainly the company must be hoping repeat the success it had with the Wii. The machine not only sold at an outstanding rate, it brought legions of non-gamers and lapsed gamers into the gaming fold.
This time around, however, Nintendo might find it more difficult to sidestep its competitors. Microsoft, in particular, has been stealing the spotlight lately thanks to the launch of its Kinect motion controller for the Xbox 360. And Nintendo must also contend with a booming smartphone market that didn't exist in 2006, said Mitsushige Akino, Chief Fund Manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management.
"Core users and game lovers will certainly buy it, but I think it will be hard to capture buyers outside of that group," he said.
Still, Nintendo may be able to slip past the competition by launching its new game machine in 2012. After all, anonymous sources have told gaming site Kotaku that Microsoft and Sony don't intend to launch new consoles until 2014.
So perhaps Nintendo will be able to steal back the spotlight for a couple of years.
(Reuters contributed to this report)