By Craig Zammit

NEW YORK: The most recent next generation gaming console, the Nintendo Wii, was officially launched over the weekend at Toys R Us on Times Square in New York and at GameStop on Universal CityWalk in Los Angeles, with supplies quickly selling out.

The launch events featured live music and entertainment as well as games and special guests, such as Nintendo America president, Reggie Fils-Aime, who handed out the first Wii console to one lucky customer who lined up for several days.

The Wii (RRP $399) launched with, according to Nintendo, five to ten times as much stock as Sony’s PlayStation 3 (PS3) console and sold with the Wii Sports disc, which features five games-in-one, the console itself, one ‘nun-chuck’ control and access to Wii Menu.

The Wii will go head to head with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 (RRP $649) and Sony PlayStation 3 (RRP $999), with each product filling a niche within the $20 billion video game industry.

Nintendo will market the Wii to families and the casual gamer, with its lower price point and unique control mechanism – which allows users to control the on-screen character through the movement of the controller itself, helping it stand out from the crowd. 

The Xbox 360 on the other hand is targeting itself towards the hard-core gamer, with increased attention being given to gameplay and graphic quality at a mid-range price point.

While the PS3 has already been touted as the gaming console for those who seek the highest technology and most advanced systems, with its Cell processor and Blu-ray drive spearheading its campaign to find its place in privileged lounge rooms world-wide.

With all three consoles now finding release in certain regions, Australia gets its Wii release on 7 December and PS3 in March 2007.

With different offerings and price-points, the market appears sufficient for all three consoles to exist side-by-side, however with interest rates rises and the general rise in living costs, the Wii could be positioned to be the surprise victor as parents source cheaper entertainment solutions for their families. 

SanDisk Corporation today also jumped on the Wii band-wagon by announcing today that it will ship special edition SanDisk SD memory cards with the release of the Wii console, with the SD card able to store game saves, downloaded games, digital photos and even movie clips.

Available 512MB, 1GB and 2GB capacities, the white SD cards will be known as ‘SanDisk For Wii’ and are expected to be available in Australia in the first quarter of 2007 with the recommended retail price being announced closer to the launch date.