Nintendo Plans DVD-Playing Wii for Japan

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According to an interview with the U.K. gaming magazine Edge, Nintendo Corporation plans to release a version of its forthcoming Wii gaming console in 2007 which can be used to play standard DVD movies…but right now, the company only plans to offer the units in Japan.

The decision is oddly parallel to company’s 2003 partnership with Panasonic, which produced the Q Multimedia Console for the Japanese market, combining a GameCube with DVD playback capability. However, sales were low and Panasonic discontinued the product almost three years ago.

The Wii will support DVD playback using Sonic Solutions’ CinePlayer CD DVD Navigator playback engine. "To be involved in Nintendo’s ground-breaking gaming console is extremely gratifying and a testament to the efficiency, flexibility and dependability of Sonic’s technology," said Jim Taylor, senior vice president and general manager of Sonic’s Advanced Technology Group. "Game consoles represent a fresh market and platform where we can introduce a new audience of potentially millions to the quality of our brand and the power of our digital media applications."

Nintendo’s apparent decision to omit DVD playback for the North American ad European market would seem to have everything to go with cost and culture. Standalone DVD players are quite inexpensive now and often offer playback and configuration features which wouldn’t be easily matched by a game console. And omitting DVD playback capability keeps costs down for Nintendo’s famously under-powered Wii. However, for dorm rooms and other tight living spaces—which are quite common in urban Japan—the ability to combine the functionality of a DVD player and a game console may have more appeal than simply having to wire up one less device and keep track of one less remote: Sony believed DVD playback capabilities boosted sales of the PlayStation 2 in Japan, and they’re hoping the PlayStation 3’s included Blu-ray drive will be a factor which drives adoption of the system.

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