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Nintendo’s New Wii U Tackles TV

Nintendo is hoping a new touch-screen controller and easy access to TV content will capture the attention of gamers and revive the languishing game market.

Source: Nintendo

The console maker faces the challenge of luring back gamers who have shifted spending away from traditional console games, to smartphones and tablets.

Nintendo has finally unveiled the details of its long-awaited Wii-U console: It goes on sale November 18 and will cost $299.99 for the basic version and $349.99 for the deluxe option, which has 32GB of storage. (Read More: Nintendo Wii U Release Date and Price Revealed.)

Nintendo will release 50 titles from publishers such as Activision, Electronic Arts , THQ , Time Warner's Warner Brothers, Ubisoft, and Disney . Those titles will include NintendoLand and Super Mario U.

Nintendo North America President Reggie Fils-Aime said having the first tablet controller, better graphics, and a wider variety of games will help the console appeal to a more hard-core gamer. (Read More: The Most Anticipated Videogames of 2013.)

The biggest headline of Nintendo’s Wii-U unveiling is the launch of Nintendo TVii, which aims to make the console an entertainment hub. The software allows users to search and watch live TV content, recorded TV from users DVR, plus Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon.

Multiple users of the same device can save their preferences, bookmark favorite shows, and receive custom recommendations. And the whole system is socially enabled, so users can see what their friends like and are watching, and can share comments across Twitter, Facebook , and Nintendo’s “Miiverse” service.

With this announcement Nintendo is directly taking on its rivals: Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation3. (Read More: The Inside Story on the Making of Nintendo's Wii U.)

Both of them have entertainment options designed to help people navigate on-demand TV options, so to that end Nintendo is playing catch-up. But as we head into the holiday shopping season Nintendo does have the key advantage of being the only new console launching this holiday season — both Sony and Microsoft are at the end of their console cycles, expected to announce new products next year, and it’s the only one which has a tablet-style controller, which acts as a second screen.

The company should also benefit from the fact that this console will support all Wii games, controllers and accessories, so gamers won’t have to build their collections from scratch.

But we’ll see if these bells and whistles mean anything in light of consumers shift to mobile devices. (Read More: Nintendo's Social Play: Game Over?)

With smartphones and tablets offering fairly high-quality games for next to nothing, will cash-strapped consumers be willing to spend? This issue is precisely why Nintendo (and its rivals) are trying to become an entertainment hub, with all sorts of tools for navigating consumers’ myriad content options.

We’ll see if that’s enough to convince consumers to spend on this device rather than a new smartphone or tablet.

—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin
@JBoorstin

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.