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Nintendo's Wii Debut Takes Times Square

12/04/2006 02:00:00 AM Eastern

For the second time in as many days, crowds lined up to be among the first to get their hands on one of this season's latest video game consoles.

But this time the scene was at the Times Square Toys 'R' Us store, where eager consumers waited throughout the day for a chance to get the Nintendo Wii, which went on sale at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 19.

The line stretched completely around the block from Broadway to Sixth Ave. and nearly back to Broadway. According to Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo, all those who waited would go home as happy customers. While more than 3,000 people lined up for the Wii, Fils-Aime told the crowd just minutes prior to midnight that more than 4,000 systems were on hand.

"Today is going to be a fantastic day," Rils-Aime told TWICE earlier that evening, while a DJ played music, and other performers took a small stage to help pass the time for those waiting in line. "The crowd is having a great time. They're getting entertained. All the folks in line are calm and collected, because they know we have a ton of product."

The Nintendo Wii, which retails for $249, arrived just two days after the Sony PlayStation 3. While considered less powerful than the PS3, or even Microsoft's Xbox 360, which made its debut in North America last November, the Wii is being targeted as a pure gaming machine — unlike the rival systems, which offer movie playback and work as an entertainment portal, including support for HDTV.

By comparison, the Wii is a simpler console, but is backward compatible with games for the Nintendo GameCube, while older Nintendo and even SEGA games will be available via purchased downloads. Just prior to the official release, Rils-Aime also announced that the Nintendo Channels had gone live.

Unlike the PS3 or the Xbox 360, consumers should find the system on store shelves. While fans lined up for days hoping to get the PS3, the scene was much calmer for the Wii.

"We came here this afternoon," said a Nintendo fan from Albany, N.Y., who along with his daughter, had waited since early evening. The new system could be an early birthday present for his daughter, but it will also be a system that mom and dad might play as well. "I grew up with the video game arcades, but now the games are so good they're in your home. Actually, they're better than what I played in the arcade as I was growing up," the customer said.

The first commercial spots for Nintendo's new system debuted last Tuesday, highlighting the motion-sensitive abilities of the Wii remote control. Additionally the company has focused their hands-on marketing efforts through the Nintendo Fusion Tour to build brand awareness, no doubt going after families that may have typically shied away from gaming consoles in recent years.

And for families that were unable to make the arrival at midnight, Nintendo plans to continue to meet demand throughout the holiday season with a target of 4 million units by the end of the year. This included a second launch the following morning at the Nintendo World store in Rockefeller Center, which opened at 6 a.m. to meet the demand for commuters who couldn't get to Toys 'R' Us.

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