Nintendo's

profits plunged in its fiscal first half, as the Japanese game maker was whipped by a strong yen and stiff competition from

Sony

(SNE) - Get Report

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

.

Group net profits plunged 45% to 18.9 billion yen (US$154 million), from 34.35 billion yen last year. Group sales fell 7% to 208 billion.

Operating profit at the game maker, which controlls the popular Mario Brothers and Pokemon game franchise, dropped 45% to 27.92 billion yen.

Sales of its GameCube console actually surged to 2.88 million units, from 510,000 units in the same period last year. Software for the console reached 20.21 million units, from 710,000 units last year.

The news doesn't come as much of a surprise after the onetime leading video game console and software company slashed full year profit and sales forecasts in September to 80 billion yen, from 90 billion yen. It reaffirmed its guidance Thursday. Sales for the full year ending March 30, 2003, are expected to reach 600 billion yen.

Looking ahead, the company is hoping to sell 10 million GameCube units and 55 million units of software by March next year.