By Gabriel Madway
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Nintendo Co Ltd said it has set ambitious goals for its newest handheld gaming system despite growing competition from smartphones like Apple's iPhone.
Nintendo, whose growth has been flagging, is making a big marketing push as it launches the Nintendo 3DS, the first device to offer 3D gaming without special glasses.
Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime called the 3DS a key revenue driver and argued that its adoption should be even faster than the original DS device, which launched in 2004 and has sold 150 million units to date.
"From our perspective, we've set the high water bar for a handheld device and our goal is to try to beat that," he said in an interview on Thursday.
The 3DS launched in Japan last month and will go on sale in the United States on March 27. The Japanese company is trying to stay a step ahead of rivals in the mobile market, which is in a state of flux as the iPhone and smartphones based on Google's Android have become more robust gaming platforms.
Nintendo is positioning the 3DS as more of a full-purpose entertainment product. It will be able to stream Netflix movies, as many smartphones can.
"This is a full-bore entertainment device, we're leading with games, but certainly we will leverage 2D and 3D video content," Fils-Aime said.
Despite the gadget's unique technology, Nintendo is facing formidable competition in the market, and not just from smartphones. Sony is also launching a next-generation handheld gaming device -- code-named "NGP" -- at the end of the year.
Fils-Aime refused to concede that the market dynamics had changed significantly, despite the rise of smartphone gaming. "We're not influenced by what competitive forces are out there."
"In the end content is what is going to drive the purchase behavior," he said.
Nintendo's Wii home gaming console pioneered motion-based gaming and was a smash with consumers. But the Wii, released in 2006, is showing some age in the face of competition from Sony Corp and Microsoft Corp, both of whom have release gesture-based gaming accessories last year.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata spoke at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday and made no mention of a next-generation console, despite the hopes of some industry watchers.
Nintendo reported a 46 percent fall in profit in its most recent quarter, and cut its sales forecast for the Wii console to 16 million units from 17.5 million units for the year to March.
But Fils-Aime betrayed no signs of worry about the Wii.
"In our view we have a very long runway for the Wii system," he said.
The Wii has sold more than 85 million units since launch, far more than Microsoft's Xbox 360 or Sony's PlayStation 3.
(Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)