Nintendo Co. has permanently slashed prices on its Game Boy Advance SP portable video game system as the company tries to entrench its No. 1 position in the handheld game market.
Beginning Wednesday, the flip-up, color screen Game Boy Advance SP will retail for $79, down $20 from its price since debuting in the United States in March 2003.
Similar price cuts were being announced in Japan and Canada, said Perrin Kaplan, vice president of marketing for Nintendo of America.
Kaplan said the cut should bring the SP further into the mainstream and was unrelated to the company's impending Game Boy DS, or dual screen, which is expected in time for the holidays. No price has been set.
"This is just logical for us," Kaplan said. "Everything we have done and will always continue to do will be to maintain a stronghold on this."
Kaplan said the DS isn't a replacement for the aging SP. She said Nintendo is targeting the DS, with its wireless and touch screen capabilities, at older, more sophisticated "early-adopter" style gamers.
Kaplan said a newer SP was in the works, though she offered no details on price, specifications or a release date.
The SP was the top game player last year, with more than 20 million sold in the United States. Since 1989, some 172 million Game Boys have sold worldwide.
"It's one area that we have really owned. We see it as an area that can continue to grow," Nintendo spokeswoman Beth Llewelyn said. "Gaming has expanded to all ages, and handhelds are ready to take that on and expand too."
Along with games, third-party manufacturers have stepped in with an array of add-ons that turn the Game Boy into a digital camera, a cell phone or a video player.
Hardware makers, however, have seen declining sales so far this year. According to the NPD Group, sales of portable hardware in the first half of 2004 fell 18 percent compared to the same period a year earlier.
It's not stopping rivals, including Sony Corp., from entering the market. Next year, Sony is set to unveil its PlayStation Portable, or PSP. The thin black machine, about the size of a paperback book, plays movies and music, plus games.