Nintendo chief says Sony portable is different

TOKYO (AP) — Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said Friday rival Sony was taking a different tack from his company and so he remains upbeat about his 3-D portable game machine going on sale next month.

Iwata was responding to a question from an analyst about the possible threat from Sony Corp.’s successor to the PlayStation Portable, code-named NGP, or “next generation portable,” announced Thursday.

“We are more focused on drawing newcomers to gaming and appealing to a wide range of people,” Iwata said at a Tokyo hotel. “What we do won’t change because of what another company is doing.”

Kyoto-based Nintendo Co.’s 3DS — which goes on sale Feb. 26 in Japan for 25,000 yen ($300), and in the U.S. on March 27 for $250 — offers glasses-free 3-D gaming.

Sony is promising graphics quality on par with its home console PlayStation 3 with its NGP.

But NGP does not offer 3-D — making that a critical feature that could determine the winner vs. the loser in the ongoing competition between the two companies.

Pricing for the NGP has not been announced. Sony said it will go on sale late this year but did not give details on dates or regional rollouts.

On Thursday, Nintendo reported a 74 percent tumble in profits for the April-December period, with earnings battered by a surging yen and momentum waning on its home console Wii sales compared to the previous year.

Sony reports earnings next week.

Iwata acknowledged sales had lost momentum. But he stressed Nintendo, which makes Super Mario and Pokemon games, was at the top in market share, compared to Sony and Microsoft Corp. in most regions.

Nintendo has so far sold 145 million DS portable machines around the world, outpacing the 64 million of the PlayStation Portable. U.S. software company Microsoft makes the Xbox 360 home console. It does not offer a portable game machine.

All game makers face a new challenge — the popularity of smartphones, including the iPhone, for playing games. People are also using other devices such as the iPod and iPad to play games.

Iwata said he was confident about the 3-D technology in the 3DS, which his company has been working on for many years, and that in the end customers will decide which machine they want.

He acknowledged he was being more careful about commenting on the NGP after he angered some people by brushing off Apple Inc.’s iPad as “a big iPod Touch” last year.

“It is clear that it’s trying to appeal to customers in a different way from us,” he said of NGP. “But I realized I shouldn’t even be talking about my first impressions.”