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Nintendo on Thursday announced its next-generation games console, the Wii, will be launched first in North America – going on sale on November 19, two days after the US debut of the rival Sony PlayStation 3.

Nintendo said the recommended retail price would be $249.99 – half the price of the cheapest version of the PS3.

The Japanese video game company aims to attract new audiences to gaming with the lower price and a revolutionary motion-sensitive controller.

“Wii breaks the wall separating players from non-players by delivering the best game experiences for the most affordable price,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo US president, at a New York press conference.

“We believe the next leap is games for the masses – young and older, gamer or non, alone, with a friend or with the whole family.”

The Wii’s controller is shaped like a wand or TV remote control and allows players to carry out realistic movements within games by waving it, such as casting a fishing line, conducting an orchestra or performing a sweeping tennis stroke.

Nintendo has been the number three maker behind Sony and its PlayStation 2 and Microsoft with the Xbox in the current generation of consoles. But its GameCube has been priced low enough for many gamers to buy it alongside one of the other consoles.

In next-generation consoles, Microsoft has emphasised high-definition features and its Xbox Live online service, while Sony sees the $499 PS3 as helping it win the next-generation DVD race with Toshiba by including a Blu-Ray drive.

Nintendo has focused on the quality of the game-playing experience. It announced the console would also include five different sports games.

The Wii will launch in Japan on December 2nd and in Europe around the same time. Nintendo expects to sell 4m units by the end of the year.

Last week, Sony said problems with a diode on its Blu-Ray drive would delay a European launch until March next year and restrict supplies of the console in the US and Japan.

Ricardo Torres, senior editor at gaming website GameSpot, said Nintendo was being smart in having plentiful supplies of the Wii on hand two days after the limited release of the PS3 would leave many gamers empty-handed and frustrated.

“In the past, Nintendo has just been countering everything, but here, both the price and the release date are pretty aggressive moves on its part,” he said.

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