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Nintendo drops Wii U price, unveils new handheld

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(Credit: Nintendo)

Faced with miserable sales and looming competition, Nintendo has finally lowered the price of its next-generation console.

Effective September 20, the Wii U Deluxe Set will see its retail price drop $50 to $299.99. Nintendo also plans to include The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD with the system in a limited edition bundle

Nintendo's not stopping there, though. The company also announced a new "entry-level" portable gaming system, dubbed the Nintendo 2DS. Set to launch October 12, the system will sell for $129.99 -- a $40 value compared to the standard 3DS.

The 2DS will play any 3DS or DS title, only without the fancy 3D graphics. Design-wise, it will ditch the clamshell look so many Nintendo handhelds have sported in recent years and opt for a slate form factor, while retaining the dual screens and touch-screen controls. It looks a bit awkward, but could prove to be a hit with parents working on a tight gaming budget this holiday.

The Wii U price cut comes after months of denials by Nintendo that it had any intention of lowering the system's price. That's not atypical in the industry -- after all, why announce a pending price cut and further hurt current sales? However, Nintendo's denials have been especially adamant. The hardware, the company has said, was being sold at a loss with the original price.

“Because from the very beginning we came up with a very aggressive price point, we do not think [a price cut] is a very easy option to take,” global president Satoru Iwata said in June.

The basic version of the Wii U, which also sells for $299, hasn't officially been discontinued, but Nintendo certainly hinted that's coming, saying the basic model is "currently in limited supply" and would remain at the $299.99 price point. Asked directly if that meant the model would be disappearing, a spokesperson said Nintendo had "nothing to announce at this time."

The Wii U has had a particularly rough go since its launch. As part of a quarterly earnings announcement in late July, Nintendo said that in the three-month period ending June 30, consumers worldwide bought just 160,000 units of its next generation console, a drop off of nearly 60 percent from the previous quarter.

Life to date, Nintendo has sold just over 3.6 million Wii Us.

The company did stand by its projected sales of 9 million by the end of March 2014, something it certainly hopes this price cut will help accomplish. The $300 asking price means the Wii U will remain significantly cheaper than the PS4 and Xbox One, priced at $399 and $499, respectively.

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