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In the process of announcing its latest financial results this morning, Nintendo confirmed that it plans to release the successor to its hit Wii game console in 2012, after previewing the new system at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles this June. The company, which has its North American HQ in Redmond, gave no further details in its “To whom it may concern” letter (PDF).

However, rumors have been running wild about the new console, reportedly being developed under the code name “Project Cafe,” and potentially planned to be released under the product name “Stream.” Rumored features include HD output (finally) and integrated touch screens in the controllers.

Whatever the details of the console, the other big question is where this will put Nintendo from a competitive standpoint. The Wii, of course, popularized the concept of motion-controlled gaming, but the 2006-era system has since been surpassed technically by both the Xbox 360 Kinect and the PlayStation Move controllers, both released within the past year.

Nintendo still leads the current console generation in cumulative worldwide sales, but Wii sales aren’t what they used to be, as evidenced by its not-so-stellar quarterly earnings today. Meanwhile Microsoft has been dominating the U.S. console market for much of the past year.

Microsoft and Sony reportedly aren’t planning to come out with new consoles of their own until 2014. That makes makes sense in the case of Microsoft because the company treated the Kinect launch as essentially the debut of a new console, given the functionality it adds to the Xbox 360.

It also makes the timing of Nintendo’s planned successor particularly interesting — giving the company the potential, at least, to jump out ahead of its rivals once again.

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