Nintendo Co Ltd, after months of hinting it would roll out a new game product in 2004, on Wednesday took the wraps off Nintendo DS, a portable videogame system with two screens, one above the other.
Nintendo had been expected by industry players to offer some sort of new handheld product this year to compete with Sony Corp's PSP, an advanced handheld gaming device set for launch by the end of the year. Sony already dominates the console games market with its PlayStation 2.
"We're not trying to take on PSP, because this machine will be completely different than anything that exists right now," said Nintendo spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa.
The company said it would hold back most details on the new product until the games industry's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles this May, but said it has already begun talks with game publishers around the world about developing software for the new device.
Industry watchers also expect Sony to show off the PSP at the Los Angeles E3 games show.
Sony's PlayStation guru Ken Kutaragi has said the PSP will be the "walkman for the 21st century" and it will play not only games, but music and movies as well. He has said it will not feature a phone function like Nokia's N-Gage.
The new Nintendo unit will feature two three-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) screens, dual processors and up to one gigabit of semiconductor memory.
It is scheduled for launch by the end of this year and will be marketed alongside the company's GameCube home gaming console and Game Boy Advance handheld device, Nintendo said.
Nintendo, the developers of legendary games such as Super Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong, controls almost the entire portable game device market with its Gameboy series. It forecasts global sales of 20 million Gameboy Advance units this year.
"Chances are, knowing Nintendo, the new unit will be very price competitive and it will be marketed for universal use, so the kids will love it as well," said Hiroshi Kamide, analyst at KBC Securities.
Nintendo said the dual screens on the new game machine would let players see the same game from two different perspectives, or see game action on one screen while looking at a map of the game environment on the other.
The game system's dual processors will be based on chip designs from British semiconductor firm ARM, a leading designer of microchips for mobile phones and handheld computers.
The new game system comes after a series of price cuts stimulated a more than 70 percent year-on-year rise in holiday sales for the GameCube.
The Kyoto-based game maker said it would easily achieve a global sales target of six million GameCubes for the full business year, easing some market concerns about the feasibility of that goal after it sold only 890,000 units in the six months to September 30.