TOKYO (Reuters) - Nintendo Co on Wednesday kept its Wii U game machine sales forecast for the year through March 2014 unchanged at 9 million consoles, about a month after it reduced the console's price in North America and Europe to better compete with rivals.

The creator of the Super Mario franchise is counting on the new Wii U to revive its fortunes as it faces new hardware releases from Microsoft Corp and Sony Corp.

Nintendo, which began by making playing cards in the late 19th century, also projected its sales of 3DS handheld consoles at 18 million units, unchanged from its previous forecast.

Known for games with characters including "Mario" and "Zelda", Nintendo is also up against stiff competition from inexpensive or free mobile games on tablets and smartphones.

Hoping to attract new players who have not been able to afford costlier versions of its 3DS, Nintendo this month launched the cheaper 2DS, which has a lower resolution and will play DS and 3DS games in 2D graphics, in North America and Europe.

(Reporting by Reiji Murai; Writing by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

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