Nintendo has just announced the release date, pricing, and SKUs for the upcoming Wii U console. The Wii U, a traditional game console that includes a tablet-like GamePad controller, will launch in North America on November 18. The Basic model is priced at $299.99, and includes a white console with 8GB of built-in storage and a GamePad. A Deluxe bundle will also be offered for $349.99, and includes a black console and GamePad with 32GB of storage, as well as charging cradles, a free copy of Nintendo Land, and rebates on digital content from the Wii U’s online store. Gamers who want to play original Wii titles will need to buy Wii Remotes separately, if they don’t already have them at home. Nintendo plans to sell Wii U-branded versions of the Wii Remote as well.
Nintendo also announced ”Nintendo TVii,” a new video service for the United States and Canada. Nintendo TVii integrates Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Tivo, Netflix, and a other media services and will come free with every Wii U. Users will be able to do things like control their DVR, search for content, and browse trivia via Wikipedia and IMDB. Until now, Nintendo was largely content to compete by focusing on games, leaving Microsoft and Sony to battle it out for media streaming supremacy. With TVii, Nintendo finally has a full featured content service, but we’ll have to wait until launch to see if they have enough partners to match what’s available on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
Nintendo dominated much of the last console cycle by focusing on value, the Wii was priced at just $249 when it launched and came with a free copy of Wii Sports, and accessibility. However, it looks like the company is going to try something different with the Wii U. For starters, they’re launching first, a tactic that helped the Xbox 360 take off back in 2005, with a higher price point. The Wii U’s GamePad, really just a large tablet, probably won’t be as easy to use or market as the Wii Remote was, which will further limit the console’s mass market appeal. Core gamers, a market sorely underserved by the Wii, may find the tablet controller attractive, but the Wii U probably won’t have the raw graphical power we expect from the next generation PlayStation and Xbox. Nintendo is gambling that their will be enough consumers at the intersection of casual, mobile gaming and harder core console gaming to get the Wii U off to a great start. It’s a gamble, but if the launch titles are solid Nintendo may have a hit on its hand.