| NEW YORK/TOKYO
NEW YORK/TOKYO Nintendo Co's Wii U will hit U.S. store shelves November 18 starting at just under $300, as the creator of Super Mario looks to regain the lead in gaming from Sony and Microsoft, and fend off tablet and smartphone makers led by Apple Inc.
The new version of the console that took the industry by storm six years ago comes with a built-in DVR that will allow users to watch and record live television like a cable set-top box.
It will go on sale in Japan on December 8 for about $340 (26,250 yen).
Executives have said it will stream video from Netflix Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Google Inc's YouTube, and Hulu. It will also come with touch-screen controllers - helping to push its price tag above rival consoles.
Nintendo is fielding the successor to the Wii in the busy year-end holiday shopping season, going up against Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360. They start at $250 and $200, respectively.
The original Wii became the world's biggest selling home console shortly after its 2006 launch, with motion-controlled gaming and a slew of software titles that appealed to users beyond traditional gamers.
What became a 100 million-machine bonanza for Nintendo is waning. In the three months to June 30, sales of its Wii more than halved to 710,000 from 1.56 million a year earlier.
Supporting two "GamePad" controllers designed to look and function like tablets, the first new console from Nintendo in six years will come with a gamer's social network function called "Miiverse." It will be its first machine in 16 years to launch with a dedicated "Super Mario" game title.
In addition to the basic 8 gigabyte model costing $299.99, Nintendo will sell a "deluxe" 32 GB version for $349.99 in the United States and 31,500 yen in Japan.
Repeating the Wii's success, however, will be tough as Nintendo battles not only with Microsoft and Sony, but tackles tablet and smartphone makers led by Apple that are eating into the $78 billion gaming market.
Apple on Wednesday revealed its latest iPhone with a bigger screen, better definition and a wireless function that allows users to view their smartphone images and games on TVs equipped with an Apple TV receiver.
For now, Nintendo, which began in 1889 making playing cards in the back streets of Kyoto, has a big enough cash pile built up during the Wii boom -- about $14 billion -- to stick with its hardware strategy.
However, if the Wii U fails to win over gamers amid a flood of tablets and smartphones, it may, analysts say, have to consider leveraging its software assets by letting Super Mario roam across devices built by other companies.
The console, unveiled in June, is available in black and white and has a 6.2-inch touch screen that includes a stylus. The GamePad controller has traditional buttons with left and right analog sticks.
Nintendo has said 23 new Wii U titles, including Nintendo Land, are in development. Third-party titles include Mass Effect 3 from Electronic Arts, Darksiders II from THQ and Ubisoft's exclusive Wii U title Zombi.
($1 = 77.8700 Japanese yen)
(Reporting by Tim Kelly in Tokyo and Nayak Malathi in New York; Editing by Michael Watson and Maureen Bavdek)