If any tech news is stealing thunder from Apple's unveiling of the iPhone 5, it's the announcement of the long-long-long-awaited Wii U. The newest console in the Nintendo family is finally on its way, slated to hit stores in time for the holiday shopping season.
Nintendo confirmed Thursday that Wii U game consoles will be available on November 18 in North America, ahead of Japan's December launch. The console will come in two versions: a basic model with 8GB of internal memory for $299.99, and a deluxe 32GB model for $349.99. Both are currently available for preorder, but, even if the nifty new features make your gaming heart skip a beat, you might want to pass on the purchase for the time being.
Wii U as Revolutionary?But first, what does the new console have to offer? Media-consuming mavens will surely be pleased to see that both versions of the console will stream Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, and YouTube, and can interact with TiVo DVR to play recorded shows and movies. But perhaps the most revolutionary feature of the Wii U is the GamePad, a hand-held controller with its own touchscreen that can be used as a standalone system or be integrated with your TV. The GamePad, in conjunction with the Wii U console and your TV, offers easy access to menus in addition to different perspectives on gameplay. And, acting as a console in and of itself, allows handheld gameplay while your TV is in use.
Yet it's far from certain whether the Wii U will reverse Nintendo's sagging fortunes despite all the hype surrounding this long-awaited model. For starters, by bearing the "Wii" name, the Wii U may put off hardcore gamers who associate the Nintendo franchise with less serious, family-friendly diversions. However, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime went out of his way to squash the gamer-lite image: "I can assure you that [the Wii U's] launch library, beginning on day one, will be the strongest for any Nintendo home platform in our history."
In an effort to cater to all types of Wii U players, Nintendo is expected to release 50 game titles from launch through the end of March 2013. Gamers should expect to see fan favorites, including a new version of Nintendo's classic Super Mario Brothers, along with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Mass Effect III, Assassin's Creed III and 007 Legends. Two Platinum Games titles, "The Wonderful 101" and "Bayonetta 2," will be Wii U exclusives.
Reasons to Wait to Buy the Wii UThe game roster may sound enticing, but keep in mind that most Wii U games will cost $59.99, up $10 from the base cost of most original Wii titles. (For comparison, the average retail price of an Xbox 360 or PS3 game is already $59.99.) Also, typically during the holiday season, the hottest toys see their best prices during the two weeks before Christmas. Video games in particular see notable discounts around this time, as well as immediately after the holiday. While your title of choice might not drop in price, there's a good chance that select games will see cuts around this time.
Moreover, while the Wii U console itself is already selling out preorders for various retailers, that doesn't mean it's necessarily exempt from promotions around the holidays. Case in point: the most popular electronics release of the year, the iPhone 5, is moving orders like crazy, but Walmart still decided to offer a discount on the iDevice. Many retailers look for ways to promote their Black Friday and holiday sales, and as a result we have seen unbelievable offers in the past. (Remember that 42" TV Best Buy offered last year for an astonishing price of $200? And how people began lining up for it a week in advance?) While nothing is certain, stores could possibly make like Walmart and offer either a special bundle during the holidays that adds value to your $300+ purchase, or even knocks a few dollars off.
Is the Wii U Too Late?We've already noted that apps have consumed more of the "casual gamer market" over the last few years, to the point where these consumers can easily purchase plenty of addictive diversions via their smartphone for mere pennies. (Angry Birds, anyone?). Additionally, we found that consumer interest in the Wii U was mild in the months leading up to this release. From a survey we conducted several months ago, we discovered that 75% of current gamers said they were not going to purchase the Wii U. Moreover, among those who already own the original Wii, 64% said they were not likely to purchase the new console.
Of course, holiday hype and the desire for the perfect gift could change all that faster than you can say "Black Friday." Or can it? Once again, we're reaching out to dealnews readers to ask: Do you plan on purchasing a Nintendo Wii U? Tell us what you think about the Wii U: its style, game catalog, and of course, its price point. Sound off in the comments below.
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