Nintendo to Add Web Access to Games

SAN FRANCISCO (08/24/2000) - Mario is moving his antics to the Internet.

Nintendo Co. Ltd., the developer of Mario Brothers and the popular Gameboy, on Thursday unveiled plans for a new console, to be called GameCube, and its latest version of the handheld video game player, called Gameboy Advance, at its "Spaceworld" convention in Tokyo. In a first for the Kyoto, Japan-based videogame developer, modem accessories would be available for both systems to connect players to the Internet or each other to engage in head-to-head play, post scores and download characters.

Jumping on the wireless bandwagon, Nintendo also announced that an adapter will be available to connect Gameboys to cell phones in Japan. But whether the company will offer the same add-on in the more complicated U.S. wireless markets remains a question.

The Gameboy Advance is expected to reach store shelves in Japan next March and in North America and Europe in July. The system will sell for US$90 in Japan, but prices on these shores have not yet been announced. GameCube will launch in Japan in July and in North America in October 2001. Its price has not been announced.

Nintendo's venture onto the Internet follows competitor Sega Enterprises, the only other gaming company that has brought its games online. But virtually all of the major players in the industry are preparing for Internet connectivity in the next generation of games. Both Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Corp.'s X-Box are expected to include an Internet component.

The public's generally lukewarm response to game peripherals may portend a similar reaction to Nintendo's modem, because it will be packaged as a separate add-on to the Gameboy and GameCube. Sega initially sold modems for older systems at an additional cost ranging from $100 to $200. But sales of these peripherals have been lackluster at best. For its latest generation system, Sega included a built-in modem in its Dreamcast console. In anticipation of Nintendo's announcement and Sony's impending launch of the Playstation 2 in October, Sega dropped the price of its Dreamcast unit to $149.

In addition to the new interconnectivity, Gameboy Advance will sport a screen 50 percent larger than its predecessor's that can display 32,000 colors simultaneously. Audio will be improved, and the processor will run 17 times faster than that of Gameboy Color. GameCube will feature a 405 Mhz IBM central processor and 40 MB of memory packed into a console about half the size of a shoebox.

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