Actor Won Bin, left, and Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata duel in a virtual tennis match at the local launch of the Nintendo Wii held at the Grand Hyatt in central Seoul, Monday. / Korea Times Photo by Kim Dong-ho
By Cho Jin-seo
Nintendo is finally set out to sell its action-packed video game player Wii in South Korea, ending a long wait for gamers here.
The company said Monday that it will release the localized version on April 26 for 220,000 won, targeting Children's Day on May 5. It is a belated introduction to Korea, 17 months after its debut in the United States.
Wii is currently the best-selling video game player in the world with more than 20 million sold worldwide until last December. But South Korea and China have been excluded from the hype, as Nintendo worried about rampant software piracy.
``We are very sorry to keep you waiting so long,'' Satoru Iwata, the CEO and president, during an extravagant press conference held at the Grand Hyatt in central Seoul.
Iwata then surprised the audience by making a long, 90-degree bow _ a rare scene in South Korea where even the most corrupt businessmen hardly admit their faults in public. Iwata and Koda Mineo, chief of Nintendo Korea, each bowed two times during their one-hour presentations.
Though such Japanese-style gestures may look exaggerated to reporters, the two Nintendo men have good reasons to thank their customers here.
The Korean game industry had been dominated by online games that run on personal computers, while video game consoles such as PlayStation of Sony and Xbox of Microsoft were all suffering from poor sales. But Nintendo surprised everyone with its palm-sized game player Nintendo DS, 1.4 million of which have been sold since January 2007.
``I remember that the general sentiment was skeptical when we first launched DS in Korea. But as we all know, it is now played by many customers here, even aged people who were unlikely to play video games before,'' said Iwata, who has led Nintendo since 2002.
The Wii is a home video game machine, which has a motion-sensitive remote controller. Using the ``Wiimote,'' gamers can imitate various actions, such as swinging a baseball bat, hurling a bowling ball or pointing a rifle at a target.
Iwata said it may not become as popular as the DS in Korea because people tend to play PC games at home. The delayed local launch also caused many gamers to buy imported Wii consoles at a higher cost.
Another worry is the rampant software piracy. It is unlikely that Wii can beat the horde of online pirates. Even before its official release, many game shops in major electronics stores such as Yongsan and Kukje Electronics Market were selling imported Wii players that have a special chip, which enables it to to run duplicated game CDs.
The company set a 39,000 won price tag each for game, Wii Play and Wii Sports, the two most popular titles.
Consumers should note that the Korean version of Wii won't play game titles bought from other countries, and vice versa.