Its low price and innovative controller could push Nintendo's Wii console to the top spot in Japan's multibillion-dollar video gaming market, two industry watchers said today.

The Wii goes on sale in Japan on 2 December, a few weeks after the 11 November launch of Sony's PlayStation 3 console.

The PlayStation 3 oozes powerful, cutting-edge technology. It's based on the Cell microprocessor, which was custom-developed for the console and promises to deliver graphics that are unprecedented in consumer video games. It also packs a Blu-ray Disc drive for playing back HD (high-definition) movies.

Nintendo's Wii is an altogether different machine. It runs on lower-specification hardware and won't do HD, but it does have an ace up its sleeve in the form of its controller. Fitted with motion sensors and a wireless link, the controller provides a new type of gaming experience. It can be swung like a bat in a baseball game or jabbed like a fist in a boxing game, for example.

The controller's intuitive handling is likely to allow Nintendo to attract people who've never played on a games console before, said Hirokazu Hamamura, president of Enterbrain, which publishes Japan's leading gaming magazine, Famitsu.

"I believe there will be big sales [for the Wii] from the very beginning. I feel this growth will slow a little from the third year, but altogether the sales will exceed 10 million units," he said. The figures are based on an Enterbrain survey of 2,500 people in Japan.

"Brand image [for the PlayStation 3] is very high, and half the people we surveyed said they wanted one, but when we ask if they will buy one many say that it's too expensive and that they'll wait until the price drops," Hamamura said.

The result will be that the PlayStation 3 sells at about half the rate of the PlayStation 2, and many gamers wait until the end of 2007 to purchase it, when Hamamura predicts a price cut and a new Final Fantasy game to attract more buyers. He expects the PlayStation 3 to rack up total sales of between nine million and 10 million consoles by 2010.

The third console in the market, Microsoft's Xbox 360, was launched last year. It will get a boost from new software titles and a low-price HD DVD drive add-on. But total sales up to 2010 are likely to lag behind competitors at one million and two million units, according to Enterbrain.