The lights are on
Are you looking for a crack team of professionals to contextualize the new Nintendo launch? You’re out of luck, but we’ll tell you what we think, anyway.
Good for Nintendo hitting the $299 price point, but that's still not enough to get me on board with the Wii U. There's no killer app short-circuiting my brain enough to make me spend the money, and the current-gen hardware under the hood is still significantly less powerful than the PC I'm playing games on right now. I'm following the Wii U closely, because Nintendo always has at least a few tricks up its sleeve (and if Pikmin turns out to be awesome, that may push me over the edge), but this is one launch I'll be sitting out.
I love Nintendo, because it’s so delightfully insane. Until today, we didn’t know the Wii U’s price or release date. Fine. Whatever. The craziest part about the system’s launch didn’t hit home until I preordered the system. Yeah, Nintendo isn’t really saying what games will be available on day one. I preordered three games: New Super Mario Bros. U, Pikmin 3, and Lego City Undercover. I know I’ll be playing at least one of those games when I get the system home, since Mario is one of the only two games confirmed (the other is Nintendo Land, which comes with the $349 Wii U bundle). That didn’t stop Reggie Fils-Aime from boasting that the system will feature the best lineup of launch games in the company’s history. By launch game, they mean anything released before March 2013. And you’ll just have to wait a little while before you learn exactly what games will be available on day one. But they’ll be the best. Like I said, delightfully insane.
No matter how many other bells and whistles a company adds, the primary purpose of a video game console is to play video games. That’s why, for me, the biggest news regarding the Wii U today was the announcement that Bayonetta 2 would be exclusive to Nintendo’s console. I know Bayonetta isn’t as big as other names coming to Wii U, like Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, or Call of Duty, but the key difference is the exclusivity. If I already own a PS3 and an Xbox 360, I don’t need a third console with which to play multiplatform games. Bayonetta is a hardcore gamer’s game with a cult following, and its sequel will draw a certain crowd. All Nintendo needs is a few must-play exclusives like that, and gamers won’t mind shelling out for a new console, because it demonstrates that the Wii U can provide things that the PS3 and 360 can’t. In terms of real games, Nintendo has had trouble differentiating its console from Sony's and Microsoft's products. I’m not willing to bank on the company's vague promises of innovative features and improved support from third-party developers, but the actual announcement of an exclusive game made me go out and pre-order my Wii U today. Of course, it helps that Bayonetta is one of my favorite games of this generation.
I believe that in today's marketplace with $199 tablets, Nintendo's Wii U needed to be aggressive with its pricing to ignite a stagnant consumer base. That said, if its goal is simply to sell units to its legion of loyal fans this holiday season, then the price point is reasonable and will sell out this holiday season, in my opinion. Like any Nintendo announcement, there are a lot of unanswered questions about the network, future products (where is Metroid HD?), achievements and the like, but there is certainly enough information for fans to line up to pre-order. Personally, this holiday season has too many games for systems I currently own for me to drop 400 dollars to play Super Mario Wii U (though I can't undersell how excited I am to play Mario in HD after all these years).
Ultimately, I think Nintendo could have come out setting a new standard for console games showing that hardware power when compared to price can be a compelling argument in today's world of freemium games in the mobile and social space, and looming announcements from arch rivals Sony and Microsoft. There are still opportunities that Nintendo could offer some unique strategies around its network as the hardware announcements today were business as usual for console manufacturers. Some will want to say Nintendo is doomed with today's announcements, but even though I personally won't be picking up the machine on day one, I know owning one is in my future and in the future of millions of gamers who love Nintendo's amazing games that make clever use of its hardware.
From a big-picture perspective, the takeaway point about today Wii U revelations was how much wasn’t detailed. Think about every console launch you’ve lived through for any game system, and ask yourself if there have ever been so many questions marks at this late in the game. We don’t have a clear message on launch games, but instead a vague message about launch window titles. In the age of Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and the iTunes Store, we also don’t have a detailed layout of Nintendo’s online strategy, services, or partners, beyond a few scattered details. And finally, it’s strange that we’re only getting a price point and release date today. With just over two months to launch, Nintendo has an uphill battle to publicize the launch to the wider non-gaming public.
Despite my misgivings about Nintendo’s approach to the roll-out, I’m still personally pretty excited about getting the new console into my house. Rayman Legends, Super Mario Bros. U, Bayonetta 2, LEGO City Undercover, and Pikmin 3 are all titles that won’t be an option anywhere else. And while the handheld screen thing will soon be available with other consoles through items like Microsoft’s SmartGlass, I’m still eager to experience Nintendo’s dedicated approach to the double screen. As gimmicks go, it definitely holds more potential for core gamers than the motion-gaming experience of the current generation. You can chalk me up as being cautiously hopeful about Nintendo’s system, but worried about its viability once its more powerful competitors arrive next year. But am I buying a Wii U on launch day? Yep.
I recently visited Nintendo’s office in Redmond, Washington for our New Super Mario Bros. U cover story. Before that visit I wasn’t completely sold on the system, but the unique use of the GamePad, along with promising titles like Pikmin 3 and Nintendo Land boosted my excitement levels. Now that the company has finally revealed the prices, my joy has been halted. Personally, I’m staring down the barrel of renewing a gym membership, getting new tires, and upgrading to the iPhone 5. I want a Wii U badly, but the price tag has me questioning a day one purchase. The limited hard drive space has me questioning Nintendo’s apparent new push to promote day-one game downloads on the system. On the other hand, I’m excited to play Bayonetta 2.
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.
Day one buy for me! :)
The jury is still out for me......I am curious to see more info on the zombie game......looks like it could be awesome.......Mario might be the deal maker for me!