It’s old versus new, as Nintendo and Sony take different approaches with console releases

Sony releases an upgraded PlayStation 4 with the latest specs, while Nintendo reissues its iconic ’80s console in a much smaller package

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2016, 5:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 4:58pm

Nintendo recently launched a palm-sized version of its ’80s games console, setting up an old versus new showdown with rival Sony as it released a souped-up PlayStation 4.

The dual launches marked a new chapter in the battle for supremacy between Japan’s top video game companies as they try to deal with a sharp rise in mobile gaming.

Scores of excited gamers queued at electronics stores in Tokyo to try to get their hands on the Nintendo’s new version of its Famicom and Sony’s PS4 Pro.

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The smaller version of Nintendo’s classic console, known as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the US, sold more than 60 million units after its 1983 launch.

The new mini-console retails for about US$60. In a strong nod to nostalgia, gamers can lower screen quality to mimic playing on an old television. The console is installed with 30 games including Nintendo’s famed Super Mario and Donkey Kong characters.

Sony’s cutting-edge machine retails for about US$400 and promises even sharper graphics than earlier versions of its PS4, which have sold more than 40 million units globally.

Most consoles had already been pre-ordered, dashing the hopes of some Japanese gamers who rushed to stores for the double launch day.

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“We stopped taking pre-orders some time ago because demand for both machines was beyond expectations,” said Yuko Harima, a spokeswoman for retail electronics stores Bic Camera, without disclosing sales figures.

The two offerings are very different but their launch could herald a new turf war among the rivals, said Hirokazu Hamamura, who heads game magazines publishing at the Kadokawa media group.

“You may think it’s no big deal that the cutting-edge high-end game machine and old-style Famicom make their debuts on the same day, but I don’t think so,” he said.

“This really illustrates that we could see a platform war in the coming years,” he told a recent seminar in Tokyo. Both firms are trying to win so-called crossover customers who use smartphones, game consoles and traditional computers, he added.

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Last week Nintendo announced it would end sales in Japan of Wii U “soon” and the four-year-old home console is being replaced by Switch, set to go on sale globally next March. The hybrid machine can be played at home and on the go, thanks to a removable screen like a tablet with the controllers attached.

But the release of a three-minute video of the system left investors underwhelmed, sparking selling on the Tokyo stock market of shares in Nintendo, which had been buoyed by the success of the Pokemon Go smartphone app earlier this year.