After the fun and games of Wii U noise over E3, now we probably have to wait until the next Nintendo Direct broadcast for another hit. We learned a great deal about Wii U at E3, with game reveals and system demonstrations giving a broader idea of what the console will offer. Much was left to our imagination, however, such as major apps and their potential – one of which we’ll explore later this week – as well as details on how NFC will be implemented. Arguably the biggest details that are still missing, for those that have already decided that they’re interested in making the investment, are the small matters of the launch date and prices.
We already know that Wii U will hit stores ahead of Christmas, and we’re less concerned with when it arrives but how it arrives. Avoiding speculative prices, we believe that Nintendo should introduce multiple ‘tiers’ and bundles to suit everyone. Let’s break it down.
Nintendo appears to be targeting two prominent groups of gamers with Wii U, one of which is current Wii owners. In some senses, the new console is being positioned as an exciting tech upgrade of Wii: it’ll play Wii games, use Wii Remotes and that dust-covered Wii Balance Board, but also has a new controller and fancy HD graphics. For the ‘Touch Generation’ in particular, it’s a re-imagining of what came to be expected with Wii, but with the GamePad controller having a DS/3DS vibe about it.
Part of this group are many people, probably including most reading this article, who already own a Wii with enough games and accessories to justify five years of console ownership. Most of our staff (and surely many of you) have enough Wii Remotes and Nunchuks to satisfy any multiplayer requirements, with Balance Boards and Zappers also resting peacefully in cupboards.
For these gamers, it’s simple: provide a ‘basic’ model at launch. No Wii Remotes or Nunchuks included, just the console and a GamePad will suffice. In fact, if it's going to be a budget model, there's no need to even provide a sensor bar or connecting cables: if the Wii versions work, then an optional HDMI cable, bought separately, could be all that a Wii owner needs. That model may not suit those keen to trade-in an old Wii, but for those keeping the humble little box it'd save them money and cables, plus also allowing most Wii owners to still occasionally play some GameCube games, too. Is Nintendo likely to give us a cheaper option quite as bare-bones as this? Not really, but those with limited funds may like to hope so.
We said Nintendo was targeting two groups of consumers, and the second consists of those who don’t own a Wii. With consideration of the loosely-termed ‘casual’ market, the numbers are possibly quite low, as that rather generic – and not always fair – phrase became widely used because of Wii. There will still be those who have perhaps resisted buying a Nintendo console to this point who will need some Wii Remotes for those all-important multiplayer games. It’s well known that some titles, such as Rayman Legends and New Super Mario Bros. U, will heavily feature play that incorporates both the GamePad and other players on Remotes. A bundle with the Wii controllers – preferably MotionPlus versions – seems like an absolute necessity.
Part of this audience is a group of ‘core’ gamers, some of whom have based their gaming in recent years exclusively around an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. We’re not going to argue about whether Wii U will attract these consumers in this article, but a bundle that includes a Wii U Pro Controller for an extra $15-20, or a price slightly below the cost of the standalone controller, may entice them to give Wii U a try.
One thing that we’re guaranteed to see with the launch of Wii U is retailers trying to attract pre-orders with incentives such as reduced price games, key rings and, if you’re lucky, Mario plushes. As is always the case, there'll be plenty of variety and options both online and on the high street, and it's possible that Nintendo will assist retailers with some of these promotions.
Another attractive add-on that can be included in every box, and something that was offered with DSi purchases for a limited time in the UK, would be a £10/$15 eShop voucher to be redeemed in the Wii U digital store. A simple piece of card with a scratch off panel is all that’s needed – though an NFC card to ‘scan’ would be fancier — and the prospect of a free game may be incentive enough to push Wii U connectivity to the levels that Nintendo desires. Whereas the launch of eShop brought specific freebies to the table, the range of titles already announced for Wii U’s download platforms suggests that Nintendo should encourage gamers to take free credit and browse, therefore getting a taste for what the service has to offer in its own launch period.
None of these suggestions have even addressed the issue of console colours, but we’d like to see options such as these available with black and white consoles, though that’s perhaps optimistic. As long as gamers of all kinds have a purchase option that suits their needs, and doesn’t make them pay for accessories or controllers that they don’t actually need, then Wii U will have an even better chance of a successful launch.