It keeps getting better and better for Nintendo ( NTDOY), whose latest gaming console, Wii, is already a huge hit. Buoyed by
strong sales of its Wii and continued brisk business of handheld game console Nintendo DS, released in 2004, income rose 43.1% to 131.9 billion yen ($1.1 billion) for the nine months ended Dec. 31, compared with the same period last year. The nine-month results topped Nintendo's expectations for the fiscal year ending March 31, for which the company forecast a rise in income to $1 billion. The numbers shouldn't come as a surprise to Nintendo watchers as the company raised its earnings outlook earlier in January -- the second time since October. Nintendo's blockbuster product has been the DS, the rival to Sony's ( SNE) PlayStation console. The DS console sold 1.8 million units worldwide in the nine months ended Dec. 31, more than twice the 916,000 units sold during the same time last year. The DS Lite, launched in 2006, sold 1.6 million units during that period. Nintendo's plan of making game consoles and titles that appeal to the whole family seems to be paying off, with games such as Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day and Nintendogs driving DS sales, the company said. The Wii continued to be a hit, with 3.1 million units sold worldwide since its launch in November, halfway to the company's target of 6 million units worldwide by March.
Net sales were up 72.8% to $5.9 billion for the nine months ended Dec. 31, from the comparable period in the previous year. Nintendo's strong performance is likely to increase the pressure on Sony. On Jan. 16, Sony said its cumulative shipments of the PS3 hit the 1 million mark in Japan. That, however, did little to quell doubts that demand for the PS3 may be slowing because the console is too pricey. Sony's 20-gigabyte PS3 model retails for $499; the 60-gigabyte hard drive model sells for $599 in North America. That compares with $249 for the Wii, as well as $299.99 for the basic version of Microsoft's ( MSFT) Xbox 360 and $399.99 for the 20-gigabyte version. Earlier this week, a Japanese store cut the price of the PS3 by 20%. However, a Sony representative said the price cut was a promotional offer valid for a limited time. Sony has recently said that it will not drop the price of the PS3 this year. Meanwhile, the company is planning a March 23 release of the PS3 in Europe. The company plans to sell just the 60-gigabyte model in Europe and has priced it at 599 euros, or roughly $776.