NEW YORK (AP) — Nintendo on Sunday will cut the price of its popular Wii console by $50, in a bid to broaden its appeal among potential new customers as it prepares to release the Wii Fit-Plus and New Super Mario Bros. games.

The Wii, whose game controller senses motions without having to rely solely on buttons and levers, is the top-selling console worldwide. The new $199.99 Wii will include the Wii Remote controller, Nunchuk controller and Wii Sports software.

"Our research shows there are 50 million Americans thinking about becoming gamers, and this more affordable price point and our vast array of new software mean many of them can now make the leap and find experiences that appeal to them," said Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo of America's executive vice president of sales & marketing, in a statement late Wednesday.

Speculation about a price cut had grown after the other two console makers, Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp., reduced prices on their systems in August. And video game blog Kotaku has posted what it said were images of flyers from major retailers advertising a coming price cut.

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Console price cuts are customary for the video game industry after the systems have celebrated a birthday or two, because they help lure in mass audiences who don't want to spend large chunks of cash on them.

The recession, however, has made them even more important, especially as game companies gear up for the holiday shopping season, when the video game industry makes most of its money. Without the price cuts, it would be difficult to entice budget-conscious shoppers to buy the machines.

Nintendo had been the only one of the three console makers to forgo a price cut so far. But it also started off at a lower price point when it launched in 2006. With a $50 price cut, the Wii will be tied with Microsoft's low-end Xbox 360 Arcade as the cheapest. Following $100 price cuts in August, Microsoft's Xbox 360 Elite and Sony's basic PlayStation 3 now cost about $300.

The price cut is coming just ahead of big game releases for the company — Wii Fit-Plus on Oct. 4 and the multiplayer New Super Mario Bros-Wii on Nov. 15. Nintendo also is kicking off a sampling tour next month to introduce its games and hardware to new players. Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, told The Associated Press that the sampling series is expected to give about 1 million game enthusiasts the chance to try out any of Nintendo's titles.

Together, the new Wii price, game releases and sampling series are designed to position Nintendo for a strong holiday season, Fils-Aime said. He noted that 170 third-party titles will launch for Wii by the end of the year, and 150 games for its handheld Nintendo Ds and Dsi devices.

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