The next generation of gaming is almost upon us, and for Nintendo that means the release of the Wii U. Much like last generation, the Big N is set to be the first out of the gate with a new console, as neither Microsoft nor Sony have made any real announcements yet. As gaming conventions and events came and went, Nintendo remained tight-lipped on the pricing of its new console. But finally, after much anticipation, Nintendo has let the cat out of the bag, confirming crucial details on all things Wii U, such as the all-important price tag. Currently, two price points were announced: $300 for a regular white console and $350 its deluxe black counterpart. And now that we know how much the thing costs, only one question remains: does the price seem fair for a next-generation console?
When the Nintendo Wii launched in 2006, it was priced at $250 in North America, instantly becoming the cheapest gaming option compared to the Xbox 360 ($399) and the PS3 ($499.) Six years later, the Wii is still the cheapest current-generation console on the market. And given that Nintendo decided to forgo ultra-high graphics in favor of a machine that was centered around fun, being the least costly of the three made complete sense. And just like its predecessor, the Wii U also banking on its unconventional way of play to draw attention to itself, rather than how powerful it is. Developers have been quoted on the Wii U’s capabilities, and things don’t look to be very “next-gen.” Back in April, Nintendo officially went on the record saying that the focus shouldn't be about performance specs. But at $300, Nintendo is also asking consumers to invest in the new system instead of picking up a 360 or PS3 for comparable costs. With the Wii U reported as being only slightly better, at best, than current-generation consoles, I ask again, is it really worth the asking price? Nintendo seems to only be playing catch up when it comes to features that gamers crave instead of taking that great leap forward that gamers deserve – and the industry – deserves.
Historically, this has been business as usual for Nintendo. The DS, Wii, and the 3DS, have all been weaker than their peers when it comes to specs but have all attempted to innovate in other areas. The Wii U gamepad is how most people will interact with the system, and though it will not be selling as a stand-alone piece in America right away, it will be in Japan available for around $170. The North American price will likely be lower by the time it is announced, but considering that extra PS3 and 360 controllers cost around $50 at MRSP, it’s not unreasonable to expect an extra pad to run for at least $100. Nintendo also has not yet outlined the price for replacing damaged gamepads, only that it won’t be free.
With the recent announcement of a new Sony's Super Slim PS3 model, it’s clear what Nintendo’s biggest competition is going to be this holiday season. It is impossible to speculate on what a next-generation console from Sony would cost, but the 250GB version of this new PS3 will run consumers $269. And when the differences are negligible, it’s difficult to see this as being a race between an aging system, and a shiny new one. I don’t doubt that the Wii U will outsell the new PS3, but I do think that it is going to be a closer race than most may think. It isn't exactly easy to recommend a new console based on relatively current technology in an unproven game market against a system with a proven record and large install base of games and with the benefit of a cheaper price.
It’s worth mentioning that Wii U games will be priced at $60, which is about $10 more than Wii games. This is, of course, an understandable increase, but the cynic in me again only sees Nintendo playing catch-up, as this price is again comparable to current-generation games. As of right now, the Wii U seems to be – again, from a technological point of view – the console that people always wanted from Nintendo. With the current generation of consoles reaching the end of their life, I find it difficult to justify the Wii U’s existence however. It will, in all probability, soon be out-performed by both Sony and Microsoft. But I’ll let time go ahead sort that one out.
Post contributed by Rueben Levine. Questions for the author? Send an email to email@example.com.