Nintendo’s latest console has had something of a rough start. It wasn’t totally clear at the official unveiling what was actually announced, and then later on it was made clear that this was a whole new console. The Wii U is Nintendo’s grand attempt at combining the explosive popularity of the original Wii and the unique gaming experience found in the Nintendo DS in the living room. But what exactly are we getting on November 18?
Nintendo is the last of the consoles to push HD gaming as a standard feature, and doing so means they need the hardware to make that happen. The Wii U is an entirely new console in a familiar looking glossy white or black shell. The console itself is only slightly larger than the original Wii, and almost always laying flat in promotional shots, partially hidden behind that tablet GamePad controller. It’s the guts Nintendo want you to hide away under your TV.
Driving the new HD Wii U experience is an Radeon GPU from AMD along with an IBM “Broadway” tri-core processor. Nintendo hasn’t divulged specifics about either the CPU or GPU yet. The two models being offered, Basic ($299.99) and Deluxe ($349.99), are identical interally with the excpetion to the storage. The Basic package will have 8GB of onboard storage, while the Deluxe ships with 32GB. Both models will also have the ability to add removable storage through any of the four USB slots. Any USB storage device will be usable for additional storage, but only after being formatted to function with the Wii U file system
The Wii U will be able to connect to just about any TV, be it through HDMI, S-Video, D-Terminal, Component, or AV and actually ships with a HDMI cable in the box. Onboard WiFi includes 802.11 b/g/n, but also allows for a USB to Ethernet connection for wired access to the Internet. The AV Multi-Out connector allows for analog stereo connections, while HDMI is used for audio otherwise.
The star of the Wii U show is the all new controller. The Wii U GamePad is a huge 1.1lb controller with a 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen taking center stage. What makes this GamePad unique is how it interacts with the games on the Wii U. The new controller acts almost as a standalone gaming console when in range of the Wii U. There’s still a lot of unknowns when it comes to its features, like the resolution of the screen or the capacity of the rechargeable batteriey, but so far the GamePad feels like a great addition to the Wii U experience.
Both versions of the console will come with one of the GamePads and you can only use one at launch. During the Wii U presentation, Reggie Flls-Aime explained that since there were already over 100,000 Wii remotes in circulation, they didn’t feel the need to include one with the console for player two. They will, however, be selling Wii U branded motion controllers, but chances are you have a Wii lying around and spare controllers to make use of.
The Nintendo press release confirms the Wii U only supports one GamePad and multiple Wii motion controllers at launch, but some applications and games will possibly support multiple GamePads in the future. When I spoke to Nintendo employees at the US launch event I was told that applications like Nintendo TVii supported two GamePads, allowing the users to access separate profiles and control the television individually. There were no two GamePad demonstrations to show this off, so if it is going to become available it will be part of a future update Nintendo rolls out. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t appear though, as there’s thought to be technical problems relating to handling communication of multiple GamePads.
Not sold with the console, but sure to be available everywhere with the Wii U is the new Pro controller. This accessory bears a striking resemblance to some of the other console controllers on the market right now, but the button layout is just different enough to set them apart when you see them side by side. The Pro controller feels incredibly familiar, and playing games on it is very comfortable.
As mentioned above, if you want to play multiplayer games then you are going to need a few Wiimotes and Nunchuks. The Wii versions are compatible with the Wii U, but Nintendo is taking the opportunity to rebrand its Wii peripherals and offer them as true Wii U accessories.
Depending on which version of the console you get you may also want or need to invest in a stand for your console and controller. The other confirmed official accessory is a mic. Beyond that we are sure to get a mass of third-party accessories. GamePad screen protectors, charging cables, battery extender add-ons, and of course storage units for the games. All of which is expected to join the Wii U on its November 18 launch day.
When the Wii U is released in November, it will be the first next-gen console on the market with Microsoft and Sony expected launch new hardware within the next couple of years. The Wii U launch is timed just right to catch the holiday season, but will be the most expensive console on the market. Will that count against it? The answer to that question will ultimately come down to the games and just how good Nintendo TVii turns out to be.
What Nintendo has achieved is another unique console that has everyone wondering whether it’s any good. But Nintendo will take that as a positive because we all had the same feeling in the weeks before the Wii launched.
Nintendo Wii U: Your reactions
Nintendo released details about its upcoming Wii U console during a news conference Thursday. But, as happens in the age of social media, reactions began pouring in just as fast as the facts were coming out.
The Japanese game company made announcements in Japan, the United States and Europe, each one talking about the three main points everyone has been wanting to know: when will Wii U be available, how much will it cost, and what games can I play on it? Prices and release dates vary around the world, but U.S. gamers will get first crack November 18.
A basic version of the console package will sell for $299, while a “deluxe” version — including additional memory, a stand and charger for the GamePad, and the “NintendoLand” game — will go for $349.
Reaction in the gaming community ranged dramatically from joy to pessimism. As prices for the two versions of the console were announced, a split seemed to form over whether the Wii U was too expensive for what it appears to be offering.
TheVoices, a commenter on the CNN.com story, said, “Just can’t see myself spending money on another product like this. I’ll wait for the 720 (Xbox whatever it is called) or the PS (Playstation) 4.”
G4 Network host and reality-TV vet Blair Herter joked on Twitter, “Not a fan of the Wii U’s price but I’m getting it for my kid because even though the child hasn’t been born yet I WILL BUY HIS/HER AFFECTION.”
However, others were just as quick to point out the history of new console release prices. Twitter user Brandon Whaley reminded people what the PlayStation 3 cost when it came out in 2006.
“I still don’t get the fuss over the Wii U price,” he tweeted. “The PS3 was FIVE HUNDRED NINETY-NINE DOLLARS at launch.”
A Twitter user in the UK offered an international perspective on the price battle.
Larry Bundy Jr. tweeted, “Dear US friends, Please stop complaining that the Deluxe Wii U is $350. In the UK, it will be £330 ($533) and ship WITHOUT a sensor bar!!!”
If it wasn’t the dollars (or yen or euros) being discussed, the topic centered on the games being offered. Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said that more than 50 games would be available from the launch to the end of March but didn’t say specifically which titles would be available at launch. Some games drew more attention than others.
“Bayonetta 2” was announced as a Wii U exclusive, drawing howls of protest and disbelief from many on social media who enjoyed the original on other consoles. Others were excited about the news.
Ally Tamara from Canada wrote on Twitter, “Well I guess I’m gunna have to buy a WiiU now since Bayonetta 2 is only going to be on that platform. I apologize to my Xbox and PS3.”
The variety of announced titles tried to hit as many different genres and fan bases as possible. Many people found at least one game that attracted them to the new Wii U console.
Perry, commenting on the CNNMoney.com story, wrote, “Sold. I was almost positive that I was getting a Wii U before, but with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate coming… Please, take my money.”
Video game writer Matthew Furtado said on Twitter, “Nintendo Land sold me on the Wii U. Tons of fun with those games today. Never mind the brilliance of NSMBU (“New Super Mario Bros. U”) and lots of others.”
David MacArthur added, “Looking at ZombiU changed my opinion of WiiU. Excited. Hope Nintendo release more than a handful of games aimed at adults this time.”
Despite reports of brisk pre-orders, other people urged caution and patience before rushing out to get the new console. Some are worried Nintendo is just playing catch-up to Sony and Microsoft, and wonder what happens when their new consoles arrive.
“I don’t hate the #Wiiu, but there’s nothing yet that demands a day 1 buy,” wrote Richard Wiltshire on Twitter. “can we not be nintendo fanboys just this once please internet?”
James Andrews is concerned about next-generation consoles. “What’s so special about the wiiU? it’s just a wii with Playstation 3 graphics and a tablet. Come on Nintendo be more creative!”
“I’m still not impressed. If it’s only ‘on par with current consoles’… the ones that are at the end of their cycle… that’s scary,” wrote Samantha (Twitter handle: @reluctant_gamer).
Still, commenters generally agreed that the Wii U will sell well in the beginning, pointing out how successful the Wii console sold on launch. The trick is to sustain that initial momentum, many say, will be releasing a stable of good games people will want to play. Two game reviewers said they were hopeful for the outlook for the new console.
Max Parker, video game columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said, “I’m optimistic because of more info on good exclusives. Plus it seems genuinely different from the rest of the crowd. I’m up for a change of pace.”
And a Twitter post by Ben Kuchera, senior editor for the Penny Arcade Report, may sum up the overall feelings of many about the Wii U — at least for now.
“Nintendo Wii U: More expensive than I’d like, software focus on casual, but a ton of potential. Overall? Can’t wait.”
Most Nintendo Wii U games will cost $59.99
Gamers looking for cheaper console games from the next-generation Wii can toss that idea out the window. Nintendo(NTDOY) revealed on Thursday that it will price most of its first-party Wii U games at $59.99 — a $10 increase over its previous Wii console games. The more expensive pricing is most likely related to the higher development costs of producing games with high-definition graphics and GamePad controls. Nintendo’s markup isn’t out of line, either. Both Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox 360 andSony’s (SNE) PlayStation 3 have had games with HD graphics selling for $59.99 since 2005 and 2006, respectively. Nintendo is merely playing catch-up.
According to Nintendo president and CEO of America Reggie Fils-Aime, ”The vast majority of Wii U software will be $59.99. From a first-party perspective. Third parties set their own pricing.” However, not all games will be priced at $59.99. “There will be exceptions. Wii Fit U is not going to be a $59.99 product with the Balance Board, as an example. But certainly we believe that these games are big enough, robust enough, with enough demand to satisfy a $59.99 MSRP.”
At what price third-party publishers will set their games is anybody’s guess, but it’s not likely to deviate far from Nintendo’s pricing — we fully expect blockbuster games such as Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Platinum Games’ Bayonetta 2 to command top-pricing.
Nintendo’s Wii U coming in November
Nintendo announced a November release date for its next-generation Wii U on Thursday while looking to shore up two key constituencies — those still puzzling over the console’s “second screen” controller and hardcore gamers who still view the Wii as geared toward families and kids.
The Wii U will launch in the United States on November 18. Two configurations will be available: a basic set for $299 and a $349 “deluxe” edition that will have additional memory, a stand and charger for the GamePad and the “NintendoLand” game.
At a New York press conference, the company also introduced Nintendo TVii, a free TV and movie service that utilizes the Wii U’s handheld controller, with its built-in screen, as a remote control and tablet-of-sorts for additional content.
Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime acknowledged that, while players who have gotten their hands on the new console have enjoyed it, others remain confused.
“We’ve come here today not just to make news, but to give you a better sense for how Wii U will change the way you play games, how it will connect your gaming friends and how it will change the way you watch television,” he said. “The agent of that change is the Wii U GamePad — a second screen that does not exist anywhere else.”
The U’s major advance on the company’s top-selling Wii console is the GamePad, which has a 6.2-inch touchscreen that interacts in various ways with games that are designed for it. Players can play together, with one person using a TV screen and the other using the game pad, or a single player can get additional content on the GamePad that enhances the game on the big screen.
While it’s not certain how many new titles will be available at launch time, at least 50 games will be available for the Wii U by March, Fils-Aime said. And while Thursday’s events showcased new titles in venerable Nintendo franchises like “Mario Bros.,” there was heavy focus on games favored by more hardcore and adult players.
Those titles included “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2,” “Mass Effect III,” “Assassin’s Creed III” and “007 Legends.” “The Wonderful 101” and “Bayonetta 2,” both from Platinum Games, will be exclusive to the Wii U.
The company has trumpeted enhanced video and memory capabilities on the new system as a way to provide an experience that’s at least on par with the rival Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation consoles, which are preferred by many diehard gamers.
Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg, who attended the event, called the Wii U “the most capable Nintendo platform ever, especially for the kind of games we make.”
He touted planned titles like “Skylanders Giants,” “Wipeout 3” and “Transformers Prime,” as well as the “007” and “Call of Duty” games.
“We’ve never been able to achieve this level of realism before on a Nintendo platform,” he said.
Nintendo TVii brings together a way to stream, watch and record shows and movies from sites like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and YouTube. Via the GamePad, it lets users get additional information about shows and share thoughts via sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Richard George, an executive editor at gaming site IGN who covers Nintendo, said Thursday’s presentation may have been the moment the company finally hammered home the value of the new system.
“Nintendo’s presentation and vision is far more comprehensive and compelling than what they showed at the past two E3s,” he said, referring to a summer video game conference.
He said the price may be slightly more than many had predicted but that the free inclusion of Nintendo TVii, which he called a key selling point, offsets that.
The presentation made strides with the hardcore gaming crowd, but that key holes remain, he said, notably titles like “Bioshock: Infinite,” “Tomb Raider” and “Grand Theft Auto V.” Questions still remain about which, if any, of those titles will be coming after the launch period.
But while reaching out to new audiences may be a focus, Nintendo has sold 630 million gaming consoles since 1983 and George says that’s a big deal.
“Loyal Nintendo fans will snatch this up like crazy,” he said.