Nintendo plays online gaming social network card

GAMES console maker Nintendo yesterday unveiled plans to launch a social network called “Miiverse” for its new Wii U equipment amid hopes that an online strategy will bolster hardware sales in an industry coming under fire from smartphones and tablets.

The strategy, unveiled by Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, is similar to that of Apple and Sony, although analysts raised concerns that Nintendo, the world’s largest console maker, is coming too late to online gaming and will have to work hard to gain ground.

Hajime Nakajima, a wholesale trader at Iwai Cosmo Securities, warned: “Nintendo is falling behind its rivals in the online gaming area. The idea of entering the field is good, but the question is whether the company can generate profits.”

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Unveiled a year ago, the Wii U console has received a frosty reception from investors worried that the hardware will struggle to find buyers in a $78.5 billion (£51bn) industry that is already a target for mobile devices such as the iPad and iPhone.

Mobile games on such devices already account for $8.5bn of the gaming market, a slice expected to grow in the years ahead.

Nintendo’s latest console will be in focus at this week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, which is expected to draw more than 45,000 analysts, retailers, investors and reporters, and may see Nintendo – which began in 1889 making playing cards in Kyoto – disclose the Wii U’s price and launch date.

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