The Wii U launches on November 18, for $300 to $350, with software focusing on the casual
Nintendo hosted its big press event for the Wii U in New York today, and all the expected data was shared. The event was competent, but hardly inspiring, although a few surprises were shown. The system will launch on November 18 in the US. The Basic package comes with the console, 8GB of internal storage, one GamePad, an AC adaptor, HDMI cable, and sensor bar for $299.99. The black Deluxe package will comes with 32GB of internal storage, a charging cradle for the GamePad, a stand for the system and GamePad, a copy of the Nintendoland game, and a sort of buyer's club for digital content where you gain points for buying online content that can later be turned in for… well, more digital content. The Deluxe bundle will run for $349.99. An extra GamePad will cost around $170, if the Japanese pricing is also accurate in the US, but it could be slightly less expensive. Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime stated that over 100 million Wiimotes have been sold, with 65 million nunchuks also sold, so they’re just kind of trusting that you already have that hardware, or you can buy it separately. That’s an interesting move, and a nod to the Wii’s ubiquity. But what about the games?
Casual with a side of niche
Nintendo showed off New Super Mario Bros. U, including challenge levels, and the ability to leave notes on the overworld map that your friends can see; that should make it easier to find those pesky hidden paths. A new version of the Nintendoland Metroid game was shown, including co-op missions where one person runs along the ground and the other uses the GamePad to pilot a hovercraft and fend off enemies. Perhaps the biggest news for core gamers was the announcement that Nintendo would be publishing Bayonetta 2, and the game would be a Wii U exclusive. Activision showed off things like Skylanders Giants and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, where one player used the television and the other used the screen on the gamepad, allowing both players to have their own discrete screen. That’s a neat trick, but remember the controller isn’t driving any of those graphics, so the Wii U is going to have to do double the work in that configuration. Expect lower frame rates or reduced graphical fidelity in games that support this sort of multiplayer. Monster Hunter 3 and The Wonderful 101 were also shown, but those games will likely sell much better in Japan; neither title has much recognition in the United States. There will also be ports from the existing current-generation systems. Is anyone interested in Mass Effect 3, Darksiders 2 or Ninja Gaiden 3 now that these titles are basically old news for core gamers? Game Informer has a list of the “launch window” games, which are titles coming out between the November 18 launch and March of next year. It’s not a very inspiring list.
Nintendo also announced a service called Nintendo TVii that organizes your current content streams and DVR into one platform, allowing the system to send you recommendations, the ability to suggest shows to your friends, and to browse your content using the GamePad’s touch screen.It’s another way to organize content, and is another example of a console manufacturer wanting to be the middle man between us and the video content we’re already paying for. There is a system that allows you to pull live screen caps from shows and type notes about them, but I’m not sure anyone buys a Nintendo system in order to live blog Modern Family. I could be wrong. This stuff is neat, but I would be very hesitant to call it a selling point.
Despite the somewhat dull tone of the press event today, the Wii U is an exciting system. Sophie Prell, Dabe Alan, and myself were able to sit down for a lengthy demo during PAX, and the games that used the GamePad were fun. The ability to hide information from other players using the touch screen offers many new kinds of experiences, and Pikmin 3 still has that Nintendo magic. We passed the GamePad and Wiimotes around, laughing and having a good time. With the right software, the system is social and enjoyable. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to get third parties to offer unique games that take advantage of the extra screen. So far Ubisoft has done the best job with games like ZombiU, and it’s disappointing that game wasn’t featured in the live event. Activision is also being smart with the multiplayer in Black Ops 2: couch co-op where you each get a screen is attractive. The Wii U has plenty of promise, but the price is about $50 more than I was expecting, and the software support is middling to weak, with a few standout titles that will be must-buys with the system. I'm willing to be convinced, but I wish we had been shown a little more today, especially when it comes to first party games. I'm curious about who out there is going to pick one up at launch, so let me know what you think.