Nintendo, at a press event in NYC this morning, revealed the final details for the holiday launch of its next video game console, the Wii. On Nov. 19 it will be released for $249. This price, already undercutting the $399 Microsoft Xbox 360 and the $599 Sony PlayStation 3 (due Nov. 17), is an even greater value considering the Wii will come with Wii Sports, a game featuring Baseball, Tennis, Boxing, Golf and Bowling. It was also revealed there will be about 15 games available at launch, ranging from the latest in the Legend of Zelda franchise to the shoot-em-up Red Steel. There should a total of 30 games by the end of the year.
Nintendo of America’s president Reggie Fils-Aime emphasized the mainstream approach the company is taking with the Wii, “Bringing gaming back to the masses.” The unique motion-sensoring controller provides for simple and immersive games that novices and hardcore gamers can both enjoy. The virtual console will provide downloads of classics for lapsed gamers to relive their youth, at only $5 to $10. And the system’s relatively low price makes the Wii an easy investment.
Following the success of the Nintendo DS handheld, the company continues to push design as an integral element. Everything is an Apple-esque White. And everything is sleek and streamlined. The controller, known as the Wii-mote, resembles a small remote control. An attachment to the Wii-mote for the other hand, known as the Nunchaku, has an ergonomic design that fits smugly in your palm. The Wii itself exudes minimalism. A plain white box roughly the size of a DVD case two inches wide.
For all the functionality of the Wii, including internet connectivity for downloading and playing games or the simple menu that mimics television channels like games, weather, news, shopping, internet, photos and messaging, the real strength of the system is evident when you actually play with it. You swing your arm to swing a tennis racket or baseball bat. You hold the Wii-mote horizontally for a makeshift steering wheel, or you aim it like a gun to fire at enemies. It immerses a player in a way few games have ever before. And with the Nunchaku in the other hand, you can have a sword and shield.
The details at the press event, and the hours of game time afterward, reveal that Nintendo is ready for the coming holiday war. The low priced Wii, with its unique functionality, should hold its own against Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I was surprised that Nintendo scheduled their launch so close to Sony’s, but with the PlayStation 3’s $599 price tag being more than double the Wii’s, and the shortage of PS3s, it looks like Nintendo’s mainstream strategy may win the race this shopping season.