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Nintendo will launch its Wii U video game console — the successor to the wildly successful but aging Nintendo Wii — in the U.S. and other key markets in time for the holiday shopping season later this year.

Nintendo chief executive Satoru Iwata told reporters in Japan that the Wii U would be launched by the end of the year in the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan, according to Reuters.

Video game fans have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new console, which features a tablet-like game controller. Nintendo launched its Wii console in 2006 and it has sold more than 94 million consoles. But the Wii has been showing its age and for the past year, the Xbox 360 has been the No. 1 console in the U.S.

Nintendo is also expecting to report an unprecedented fiscal year loss in the year ending March 31. That’s due not only to the decline of the Wii but also the lukewarm launch of the 3DS handheld, which has had a hard time holding the attention of gamers in the age of the iPhone and the iPad.

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So Nintendo has a lot riding on the the Wii U, which has novel game play opportunities but is risky. Some observers worry that the Wii U may be under-powered, much like the Wii, even though it will be able to play high-definition games.

Sony has said it will not talk about the PlayStation 4 at the E3 2012 trade show in June. Microsoft, meanwhile, is rumored to be working on the successor to the Xbox 360, but it is not expected to launch this year. That means that Nintendo may be able to sell the Wii U without any direct competition from a new console this fall.

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