$150 at Last: Nintendo Wii Officially Cheapest Game Console on Planet

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Say what you will about its tired low-res graphics, often imprecise motion controls, and Himalayan mountain range of shovel-ware software, the Wii’s already won the most important lap in the current console wars: it’s in over 86 million households worldwide—tens of millions more than either Microsoft or Sony. And as of yesterday, May 15th, it’s dropped from $200 to an almost impulse $150.

I don’t play the Wii much these days, but when I do—Zelda, the Metroids, the various Mario mainline titles and spinoffs—I’m reminded why I fell in love with video gaming. Games like L.A. Noire may be re-imagining what games can be (hey, it made the Tribeca Film Festival, a gaming first) but Nintendo defined what gaming was at its very best. The company’s also been the vanguard in changing how we interact with games, boldly trotting out wildly unique technology aped by the competition years later. Both Microsoft Kinect and PlayStation Move owe their very existence to Nintendo’s Wii Remote and Nunchuk.

Of course there’s a bigger question you’ll have to answer if you’re one of the few who hasn’t purchased a Wii yet: should you wait? For the Wii 2, I mean, or whatever Nintendo opts to call it (some have argued “Stream,” for its rumored video streaming capabilities, but all we know for sure is that it’s codenamed “Project Café,” and we’ll see it in action for the first time at E3 2011 in early June). It’s anyone’s guess when we’ll be able to buy one, but I’m betting no sooner than holiday 2012.

Do you have younger children? Consider a Wii. Do you like the idea of controlling games with sweeping gestures instead of just your thumbs and fingers? You probably want a Wii (both PS Move and Kinect cost considerably more without really delivering more). Want to play the kinds of games you grew up fooling with (say you grew up in the ’80s or ’90s)? Definitely a Wii. Want to goof off a couple times a week, no serious time commitments? A Wii, for sure.

Or you could wait to see what Microsoft and Sony announce at this year’s E3. Price drops seem unlikely—both systems should be mainline for years before successors appear—but we can probably depend on special Kinect and PS Move announcements (perhaps major discount bundles) probably designed to lure customers who might otherwise snap up Nintendo’s new $150 bundle, which, I almost forgot to mention, includes both the wireless Wii Wheel and a copy of dragster favorite, Wii Mario Kart.