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Nintendo pulls the plug on Wii production in Japan

Nintendo has ended production of its ground-breaking Wii video game console in Japan, according to a notice appearing on the company's website.

The Japanese-language landing page for the Wii on the Nintendo site currently has a "Production Discontinued" notice prominently displayed. It was first noted by Twitter user Expired Cheese over the weekend and reported by IGN on Monday.

A Nintendo spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday that production of the Wii in Japan had ceased, but clarified that the end of production was only relevant to that country.

"The announcement that the Wii console has been discontinued is specific to Japan. There is no change in the status of the Wii in the United States, and it is available for purchase this holiday season," the spokesperson said.

The phasing out of Nintendo Wii production in Japan could mark the beginning of the end of an era for one of the company's most successful products ever, which caught rival console-makers Microsoft and Sony off guard when it was released in November 2006.

Back then, Nintendo bucked the conventional wisdom of the time by opting to build its follow-up to the GameCube around motion sensor technology and its revolutionary Wii controller, rather than simply jacking up the graphics horsepower as the company's rivals had done with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Out of the gate, hard-core console gamers scoffed at the Wii's relatively primitive graphics. But the cleverness underpinning Nintendo's move to a new gaming interface quickly became clear — an even larger customer base made up of more casual gamers and non-gamers emerged to make the Wii the best-selling console in the world for several years after its release.

The Wii became Nintendo's top-selling console of all time in early 2010 and as of June 30, 2013, had sold more than 100 million units, according to the company.

The popularity of health-related, family-friendly games for the Wii like Wii Fit and Wii Sports left the other two leading console makers scrambling to offer their own motion-based accessories. Sony released its PlayStation Eye and Move combo for the PS3 in September 2010, while Microsoft debuted its Kinect sensor for the Xbox 360 a few months later, meaning Nintendo had roughly four years of the motion-based gaming market all to itself.

The addition of motion capabilities to their consoles helped Microsoft and Sony make up some of the market share ground lost to Nintendo after the release of the Wii. But to date, those companies have moved between 20 and 25 million fewer units of their seventh-generation game consoles than Nintendo has, according to industry trackers.

What's more, while Microsoft and Sony have reportedly sold their current-generation consoles at a loss for large portions of their lifespans, Nintendo by most accounts has raked in a tidy profit from its Wii sales since releasing the console.

Unfortunately for Nintendo, its follow-up to the Wii, the Wii U, doesn't look ready to set the world on fire the way the original did. The Wii U debuted a year ahead of the eighth-generation consoles from Microsoft and Sony coming next month, but initial sales have been disappointing.

Image: Flickr (LonelyBob)