By Craig Zammit

MELBOURNE: Nintendo has announced its next generation gaming console, the Nintendo Wii, will go head-to-head with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 over the Christmas selling period across Australia and retail for $399.95.

The Australian release date for the console has been confirmed as Thursday 7 December, giving Nintendo a global pre-Christmas release period to take on current next generation gaming console champion, the Xbox 360.

With 16 titles available at launch and another four expected before 31 December 2006, as well as a complete library of every GameCube title ever released to be built-in to the console itself, the Wii will look to position itself as the value-for-money alternative for those looking to avoid the current $649 Xbox 360 and $999 PlayStation 3 price tags.

“Wii is a product for all to enjoy. Whether you’re young or old, an experienced gamer or complete novice, Wii has something unique to offer us all,” said Nintendo director of sales and marketing, Rose Lappin.

“At such an affordable price, we see Wii as being a true product of everybody.”

Included in the launch package will be one wireless Wii remote controller, one ‘Nunchuk’ controller and a Wii Sports game featuring five different sports, all of which will utilise the new controller mechanism.

The Wii’s unique control mechanism will see users physically operate the two-piece ‘Nunchuk’ style controller in three dimensional space, meaning if users want their on-screen character to swing a sword or even a tennis racquet, then the user will actually move their hands in such a manner.

Every Wii console will also feature the Wii Channel Menu, which is essentially a series of on-screen ‘channels’, which apart from serving as the starting point for all console functions, will also offer a gateway to the Virtual Console to allow users to purchase games online.

The Wii Channel Menu, designed to motivate users to turn the Wii on everyday, also features news, weather, internet browsing capabilities, photo viewing and sending, a virtual notice-board to leave messages to others and even a channel for users to create playable caricatures of themselves to use in actual games.