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Iwata: 'Wii has not lost momentum in US'

Nintendo president calms investors after latest financial results

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has pointed out to investors that the Wii is still selling better than the PS2 was at this stage of its lifecycle in the US, with 27.14 million units sold after four years at market in comparison to PS2's 22.09 million.

Iwata also made clear that, although sales figures for the console had dipped from peak levels, the January to September sales figures for the consoles fifth year, 2010, were better than those of the PS2, still the best-selling home console overall in North America.

From January until September 2010, Wii sold 3.21 million units, 22 per cent more than the PS2 did in the January to September period of its fifth year.

"I hope each and all these charts will convince you that Wii, as a machine set to welcome its fifth holiday sales season, can never be considered to have lost momentum," Iwata told investors.

The president was also confident that Nintendo would be maintaining their historical sales lead over PS2.

"Wii's cumulative units-sold lead over PS2 until its fourth year in the US market was 23 per cent. For Wii to maintain or extend this 23 per cent lead in its fifth year, Nintendo will need to sell 5.7 million units of Wii hardware in the US, but it looks like that there won't be so much trouble for the company to outnumber this."

The figures were part an extended presentation on the current state of the console market and Nintendo's position in it - an attempt by Mr Iwata to calm investors after Nintendo's relatively negative financial reports were interpreted as a sign of decline by some analysts. Nintendo said the loss as purely due to re-evaluation of assets held in foreign currencies after a strong period of growth for the yen.

Included in the report was an assessment of the DS's dropping figures, in which Iwata conceded that the slowing sales were something to be concerned about, even though market share in the handheld arena had increased for the DS in comparison to the PSP.

"While this year's Nintendo DS hardware unit sales fell in the first nine months in comparison to the same period last year, Nintendo DS increased its market share from 81 per cent to 83 per cent," he said.

"Of course, we cannot afford to feel happy about this increased market share at all now that the total unit sales have declined. Now that Nintendo DS hardware has reached such a high level of its installed base, it has become even more important for us to materialise the remaining sales potential."

Moving on to Europe, Iwata was forced to admit that the sales figures painted a pretty unconvincing picture for Nintendo, showing that the company had lost ground to its rivals in the territory, although he quickly pointed out that the Wii was still dominant.

"Xbox 360 has increased its sales after the model change, particularly in the UK. So far in 2010, PS3 has outperformed its 2009 sales and, quite recently, it has been leading the European market," Iwata said.

"When we make a year-on-year comparison, Wii showed a decrease and both Xbox 360 and PS3 showed increases, but the fact that Wii has been the best-selling home console hardware with the largest share has not changed."

The DS's position in Europe also came under scrutiny, with Iwata pointing out that, although rife piracy had undoubtedly affected software sales, illegal copying couldn't account for the total reduction - instead he identified a continuing increase in the astuteness of the DS's audience, tacitly admitting that some of the DS's previous software dominance had been down to market saturation and some naivety on the part of the consumer.

"The days when any Nintendo DS software could sell are over and consumers have become more selective," Iwata confessed, "and, as a result, the gap in the unit sales between hit titles and non-hit titles has expanded and, almost at the same time, illegal copies have spread across Europe. Also, after the 'Nintendogs' and 'Brain Training' software titles showed explosive sales there, we have been unable to offer another software title that European consumers really feel like purchasing."

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Dan Pearson