Japanese game sales hit record high in 2007

The booming popularity of Nintendo’s Wii console and DS handheld sent the combined sales of game machines and gaming software in Japan to a record high last year, according to research by a Japanese publisher.

The results underline the stellar success of Nintendo, the company maker behind Super Mario and Pokemon games. The Kyoto-based manufacturer has pursued a strategy to reverse the gradual decline that has ailed the industry in recent years by introducing games that appeal to newcomers, including the elderly and women.

Nintendo said Wednesday its Wii Fit game, which uses a board resembling a weight scale to help people exercise in the living room with yoga positions, hula hoops and push-ups, already sold a million units in Japan in a month since going on sale in December.

Overseas sales plans for the hit game aren’t decided yet, company spokesperson Ken Toyoda said.

Enterbrain, which publishes game magazines, found hardware and software gaming sales in Japan totalled ¥687,76-billion ($6,3-billion) in 2007, up 10% from the previous year.

The top-selling machine in Japan was the Nintendo DS portable machine, with 7,1-million units sold last year, according to Enterbrain’s research released earlier this week. Since going on sale in 2004, sales of the Nintendo DS have totalled 21-million in Japan, it said.

The number two selling machine here in 2007 was also from Nintendo, the Wii, which has been a sell-out around the world since arriving at stores in late 2006. In Japan, 3,6-million Wiis were sold last year, for a cumulative 4,6-million, Enterbrain said.

Offerings from rival Sony did not fare as well — at three million for the PlayStation Portable and 1,2-million for the PlayStation 3 in 2007.

Only 257 800 of Microsoft’s Xbox360 machines were sold in Japan last year.

Ranking number one in game software was Wii Sports, which has players using the wandlike remote to play virtual tennis, boxing and other sports, at 1,9-million sold last year in Japan.

The game is typical of how the Wii has emerged a hit with such offerings that aren’t stereotypical shoot-em-ups. The DS handheld has also wooed new people with its touch panel and brainteaser puzzles, educational material, cooking recipes and other easy-to-play software.

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told Japan’s top business daily, the Nikkei, the company will continue that strategy by offering wireless downloads for the DS, such as searches for purchases in a mall and train schedules at a station.

”We don’t need to stick to a narrow definition of games,” he said in an interview published on Wednesday.

Nintendo said previously it had shipped 13,2-million Wii units worldwide until the end of September, and is targeting a cumulative 23-million Wiis by March 31, the end of its fiscal year.

Sony said previously it sold 5,6-million PS3s worldwide as of the end of September, although the company has since reported robust holiday season sales in North America at 1,2-million. The Japanese electronics and entertainment company has not yet given a new worldwide number.

Microsoft has sold 17,7-million Xbox 360 consoles globally over the last two years. – Sapa-AP

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