This past week, we've been given a lot of fresh information about the Wii U. You can see Cheat Code Central's writeup of the news here, but what do these developments say about the console's eventual place in the market? Here are a few thoughts.
1. The price will be competitive—at first.
At $300 for a basic model and $350 for a bundle with NintendoLand and more storage, the spiffy new Wii U will look like a decent buy alongside the aging Xbox 360 ($199 for a basic model) and PlayStation 3 ($250). As Microsoft and Sony roll out their next consoles, however, these numbers might not look so great—and once Nintendo's hardcore fans all have their consoles, demand could stagnate.
Industry analyst Michael Pachter anticipates that the Wii U will see a first-year price drop. Apparently, the initial price is basically just a way of controlling demand during the holiday season and squeezing a few extra bucks out of the Big N's faithful. So, unless you're absolutely burning to play yet another New Super Mario Bros. game, it might be a good idea to wait until 2013 to drop your hard-earned cash on a Wii U.
2. That damn controller is still causing problems.
I've written previously about some of the concerns with the Wii U's GamePad—there are rumors that it's hard to produce, and that it drains more system resources than it's worth.
This week we learned of another problem, and it is certainly consistent with these rumors. At launch, GamePads won't be available for purchase separately in the U.S., and in Japan they will cost half of what the entire console does. What's more, none of the launch games support two pads at once, and if your controller breaks, Nintendo will charge a fee to repair it. I certainly hope that Nintendo will do the repairs for free if the problem stems from a manufacturing defect as opposed to, say, a gamer's temper.
3. The Wii U will be decent for media.
The Wii has a nice Netflix app, but otherwise the console never really matched the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 in this regard. The Xbox 360 could upsample DVDs to HD, the PlayStation 3 had Blu-ray, and both had a variety of apps that allowed you to access various forms of media content.
Like its predecessor, the Wii U won't play DVDs or Blu-ray discs, but it will come with TVii, which basically lets you access and search your cable content through your console. Further, the GamePad acts as a universal remote, and if someone else is using your TV you can watch whatever you want on the pad itself. Not bad.
4. There are still serious questions about the console's power.
We finally have some hard numbers about how the Wii's hardware will perform. At first glance, it's all good news: It has significantly more RAM than the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, and it's capable of loading data off of a disc much faster, too.
But there are two very important questions, and we won't know the answers for some time. One, how much of these resources will be consumed by powering two screens instead of one? (After all, we can only look at one screen at a time.) And two, how will these specs stack up against those of the next PlayStation and Xbox?
5. The console will own the holiday season.
This one's pretty simple: The Wii U will be the only next-generation console available this year. Ergo, it will be the best-selling one.
6. The early signs might be good sales-wise—or maybe not.
You've probably read our story about how the Wii U is "selling out". With most products, that's a very good sign—an indicator that demand is much higher than anticipated. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily the case when it comes to game consoles.
First of all, game companies have been known to intentionally create shortages of their high-profile products. In fact, a high-ranking figure at GameStop once speculated that Nintendo did this with the original Wii.
Why fake a shortage? Well, it creates the impression that the product is more popular than it really is ("We can't make 'em fast enough!"), and if the company is lucky they'll get some free news coverage when two mothers get into a catfight at Walmart over the last available console ("So good it makes people go crazy!"). With the original Wii, GameStop theorized that Nintendo was holding back until the end of the fiscal year to juice the following year's numbers. So, it's entirely possible that this is all just a marketing ploy.
And even if the shortage is real, we have to ask: Is this really happening because everyone wants the Wii U? Or is it happening because production problems kept Nintendo from making enough consoles?
Hopefully, all of this will shake out soon enough.
Date: September 20, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*