After Nintendo’s Wii U live stream press conference today, I could not help but voice some thoughts.
Did Nintendo just beat Apple to the true TV market? No.
At an initial glance, it would seem as if Nintendo has reinvented the TV experience with TVii. By surfing TV, sports, and movie content via the GamePad, selecting your choice of distribution (Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, live TV, or TiVo DVR), offering a second screen experience on the GamePad for TV (social integration), sports (plays, stats, scores), and movies (social integration) alike, and creating family TVii profiles for viewing preferences, it looks like Nintendo just changed our viewing experience. But did they really?
Part of the long standing challenge with TV has not been the selection system or the need for more direct interaction through social media or sports plays, but the price consumers are paying for distribution. When I am experiencing a movie or TV show, I am not apt to pick up my iPhone and tweet about what is going on. When I am watching the Dallas Cowboys reign supreme over the New York Giants, I am not concerned with the previous plays I just watched. What I am concerned with is the fact that I am watching a single channel yet paying for 200+ others that I am not viewing, nor will I likely ever view.
I do believe TVii will be the marketing strength of the Wii U, however I have a hard time seeing it’s lasting appeal. Until someone, be it Apple, Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony, is able to allow for à la carte channel distribution, cable companies will continue to have us wrapped around their finger. Give me Food Network, G4, HBO, and the Dallas Cowboys at $5/mo. per channel and I am in. Also, is anyone else concerned over the 32GB storage cap for TiVo DVR?
Starting at $299 for Wii U Basic with 8GB storage and no game, the price tag seems a little alarming for the Wii’s predecessor. While every Wii at the price point of $249 shipped with a copy of Wii Sports, Wii U buyers will have to shell out another $50 for the Deluxe Wii U version which includes NintendoLand, the 1st party mini-game release for Wii U. Granted, buyers will also receive a storage bump of 32GB, bundling a 1st party mini-game title does not warrant the cost. Part of the Wii’s success was the fact that everyone could be bowling from home for a minimal entry level console price tag. Many may find more value in skipping the Deluxe package and purchasing one of the several third-party launch titles available with the Basic version instead.
On top of this, gamers will be paying next-gen pricing for current-gen specs! Regardless of the amount of new tech that is packed into Wii U for the GamePad’s second display, consumers are more than likely not going to understand what it takes to run two displays at once. For many, the Wii U will seem outdated by the time Xbox 720 and PS4 are released.
The one obvious note regarding the price point is that Wii U is the first next-gen console on the market. To this point, Nintendo can charge whatever they want and it will still lure in casual gamers. However, the hardcore audience already has a hard time justifying a Wii purchase and will likely see little value in a Wii U purchase if their “hardcore” games such as Call of Duty will look and perform the same as they do on their current Xbox 360 and PS3. All of this said, come the release of Xbox 720 and PS4, we are likely to see a Wii U price drop as Nintendo will continue to struggle with the hardcore market.
Regarding Launch Titles:
I understand that Nintendo is trying to patch up their relationship with the hardcore audience, but at this point the hardcore market comes to Nintendo for their first-party titles such as Mario Bros, Star Fox, Zelda, and Metroid. A vast majority of the hardcore market grew up on the NES, SNES, and N64 and in turn came to appreciate Nintendo for their first-party experiences.
The fact that Nintendo decided to almost neglect first-party launch titles entirely and instead focus on third-party developers seems to be too little, too late. As a Nintendo fan boy, I can say that I get excited about new Nintendo consoles not for releases I can find on Playstation or Xbox, but for their ability to reinvent my favorite video game characters. Focus on first-party, Nintendo.
Wii U will launch in the US on November 18th, 2012 in the two flavors mentioned previously. The TVii feature will not incur any additional costs. Current Wii games and Wii Remotes are compatible with the Wii U.
[UPDATE] Nintendo on Game Pricing, GamePad Sales, and Wii to Wii U Data Transfer
Nintendo on First-Party Game Pricing at $59.99:
“The vast majority of Wii U software will be $59.99. From a first-party perspective. Third parties set their own pricing,” Fils-Aime told me, meaning that Nintendo fans would generally be paying $10 more per first-party game versus the Wii era. “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.” – Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America president and COO via IGN.com
Nintendo on additional GamePad sales, or the lack there of:
“We have deliberately not announced the availability of the GamePad as a separate, standalone accessory here in the United States. The reason for that is simple – there are no games in the launch window that take advantage of a second GamePad. And [because of that], I want all of that hardware production to be focused on driving sales at retail.
“What I mean by that is that Wii U is a console and a GamePad together. If I were to take additional GamePads and make them available as an accessory, then I would have less Wii U console hardware to sell into retail. You know, probably one of your questions is whether I’m going to meet demand. The only way we’re going to achieve that here in the Americas is to not have that GamePad accessory, so I can maximize my overall volume.” – Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America president and COO viaIGN.com
Nintendo on transfering game data and Virtual Console games from Wii to Wii U:
“I can confirm that you will be able to transfer your content from your Wii to the new Wii U. Wii U owners can wirelessly transfer content such as Miis, and WiiWare and Virtual Console games to their Wii U systems. Both systems will need to be connected to the Internet and the Wii U will need an SD card to facilitate the transfer. The process is very similar to transferring content from Nintendo DS to Nintendo 3DS or from Nintendo 3DS to Nintendo 3DS XL; which has been received positively by consumers. Transferred Wii content is accessible and can be played through Wii Mode, an application on the Wii U’s main menu.” – Brian McFarlane, Nintendo of America Inc. via Gimme Gimme Games
What do you think?