A Pair of Wins for Wii?

It's finally becoming real. After months of buildup, last week Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) confirmed plans to be the low-cost gaming leader with its Wii console.

In a brief interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Nintendo's head of German operations said that Wii would be priced at less than 250 euro, or roughly $322 here. That's pretty consistent with earlier reports that the box would sell for $250.

It also sticks it to rivals, sort of. Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Xbox 360 sells for between $299 and $399, and Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) forthcoming PlayStation 3, which is due Nov. 17, is expected to fetch between $499 and $599.

But that's hardly unexpected. I find it particularly interesting that Nintendo leaves open the possibility of slightly higher pricing than it originally planned. That's key, but it's not the only piece of good news.

Atari (Nasdaq: ATAR  ) now says that it won't have games ready for the rival PS3 system before 2007. CEO Bruno Bonnell told GamesIndustry.biz in an interview that Atari is "lacking information about the PS3 at this stage, because we have basically a rough release date and a high retail price point." Atari expects no trouble supporting the Xbox or the Wii.

I realize that Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) and (maybe) Activision (Nasdaq: ATVI  ) are still the heavies in game design, while Atari is an old-school bit player, but the delay could nudge some gamers to take a look at the Wii console.

Not that they'll need much motivation. Wii will be backwards compatible with virtually all of the games in Nintendo's vast library. Plus, the console is expected to feature an innovative motion-sensing controller that seems like a great addition for sports gamers.

But even if Wii isn't a hit, Nintendo's portable DS system is. Researcher NPD Group says the new DS Lite was the top-selling video game system in the United States during June. For its part, Nintendo says it has shipped more than 20 million DS systems worldwide. Yowza.

So does that make Nintendo's stock a screaming buy? Maybe. The last comparable boom period for which data is available is 2001, when Nintendo released the GameBoy Advance and the ultimately unsuccessful GameCube.

Back then, the shares traded for an enterprise value of 4.4 times revenue, a price of 3.6 times book value, and 38 times earnings, according to Capital IQ. Today, the House of Mario trades for an enterprise value of 3.2 times sales, a price of 2.4 times book value, and 23 times earnings -- enough of a gap to indicate a potential discount. Color me intrigued.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers was huge at Super Punch-Out in the '80s. Now he hits the heavy bag to try and stay in shape. Wish him luck, will you? Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. Get the skinny on everything Tim is invested in by checking his Fool profile. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Electronic Arts and Activision are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a bona fide knockout.


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