Nintendo: Wii U Is Core Enough and It’s the Most Innovative Game System Ever Made

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The Wii U launches in just two months on Nov. 18, once again pitting Nintendo’s ability to create enthralling, never-before-seen gameplay against the less intrepid, core-focused muscularity of competitors like Microsoft and Sony. Will lightning strike twice? Will the Wii U resonate with casual players? Will the system’s high-definition makeover bring core gamers back to the fold? We’ll see.

After Nintendo’s Wii U preview event last week, I asked Cindy Gordon, Nintendo’s V.P. of Corporate Affairs, a few questions about launch details, pricing and the system itself. Here’s what she told me.

(MORE: 11 Things I’d Like to Know About Nintendo’s Wii U)

Let’s talk about the Wii U’s pricing. Analysts set a lot of the expectations, for better or worse, and so everybody was expecting the system to come in at $250, or $300 with a pack-in. How did Nintendo settle on $300 and $350?

So just to back up in terms of the pricing topic, this is intended to be a mass market, mainstream consumer product that we think does deliver really strong consumer value, and we think no company has ever put this much innovation and offered as many new and compelling experiences — this sort of wide range of features and experiences — in one system.

Every Wii U owner, right out of the box, they get not only a new HD console, next-generation, that’s truly a step up from everything that’s out there; they’re also getting a completely integrated second screen with a gamepad that’s creating brand new entertainment experiences. They’re getting what we announced today, this groundbreaking new entertainment application that we’re calling Nintendo TVii, that revolutionizes the way you find, watch and interact with TV and your video on demand content. In addition to all that, you’re getting additional services, including Miiverse, our online gaming community, the Internet browser, e-shop, video chat — all of those are included at no additional cost.

On top of that, consumers who purchase the Deluxe model for $349.99 get a copy of Nintendo Land, which is a great value, and they can participate in the incentive program, the digital deluxe promotion. And keep in mind we’re launching with more than 50 titles in the launch window. So there’s a lot of value you can see, touch and feel in the Wii U right on launch day.

Speaking of the games, what’s the average price for mainstream games? For the Wii, it was $49.99. For the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it shifted to $59.99.

$59.99, though obviously games can fluctuate up and down from that.

So the days of $49.99 mainstream games are probably over?

Our goal is to offer players options. The logic behind offering two Wii U sets, for instance — the Basic and Deluxe — is to give consumers as much flexibility as possible when they decide to enter the Wii U experience. Offering the Basic set gives them a lower cost of entry and really the flexibility to choose any game they want. Nintendo Land is a great game that we think really showcases the Wii U’s uniqueness, but there are some people that may really want ZombieU on day one, and some people who’ll want Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

How about the cost of a second Wii U GamePad? Is there even a need for a second Wii U GamePad?

At this point we’ve announced that it’s technically possible to play games with two Wii U GamePads, but we don’t have games launching now that take advantage of that, so we’re not selling them as a separate SKU. Somewhere down the road when the software supports it, it would make sense to introduce that.

The Wii U GamePad as a secondary screen seems to be inspired by the DS, and I’ve described it myself as a DS snapped in two. Would you say the DS is the direct antecedent of the Wii U?

We’ve certainly heard people say that, and it’s interesting that we innovated with two-screens on the DS and 3D on the 3DS, and sure, you can imagine at Nintendo people were thinking about what that might look like on a home console and what the possibilities would be.

Usually the way it works at Nintendo is, someone comes up with a great software idea, and that enables a particular hardware experience. Very often at Nintendo, software and hardware are intrinsically tied together. There’s no question that there’s nothing else out there like the Wii U GamePad’s integrated second screen.

But yes, we have heard people liken it to the DS.

(MORE: TVii for the Wii U: Nintendo’s Bold Move Beyond Gaming)

The Wii’s primary audience seemed to be more casual and family-oriented, and yet many if not most of those of us who write about games tend to identify more with the so-called “core” audience. A lot of that core audience is skeptical about Nintendo’s commitment to core gaming, given the economic appeal of growing the casual demographic. Will the Wii U be different?

If you look at the 50 games in the launch window, there’s really deep third-party support, and you’re talking a wide range here of titles that are going to appeal to everyone. We’re going to continue on that mission of wanting to make everyone want to be a gamer with Nintendo.

Our range includes franchise favorites like New Super Mario Bros. U, we’ve got core blockbusters like Call of Duty: Black Ops II, expanded audience hits like Just Dance 3 and Scribblenauts, and more breakout newcomers like ZombieU. And then we have all the digital games in the e-shop, which is launching on day one as well. Our mission is to offer something for everyone.

How will services we’re familiar with on the Wii and 3DS work in the Wii U environment?

Certainly you’ll be able to access your Wiiware and all of those things like the Virtual Console titles on the Wii U console, day one. And of course you’ll also have Miiverse, which is what’s unique and new, and a key differentiator for us — it’s very much a part of the Wii U, just as the Wii U GamePad is uniquely a Wii U component.

The Miiverse is integrated into your favorite gaming software as well as the Wii U interface, and through Miiverse, you have direct connectivity between gamers, between games, the Wii U hardware, meaning you can interact with your game friends inside the game world. That’s distinct, this idea of community and trending topics and in-game integration, to be able to join Miiverse and share how you’re doing in a particular game, your wins, your agonies of defeat, what people are discussing — that’s a truly unique feature of the Wii U.

By making the Wii U backward compatible with the Wii, you’re introducing the possibility that gamers could theoretically wind up owning a Wii U, Wii Remote, Nunchuk, Wii U GamePad, the Pro Controller, the Balance Board, Wii Wheel and dozens more. That’s a lot of stuff.

For the most part, considering 103 million people already own a Wii Remote and sixty-some million own a Nunchuk, you know, these are forward-compatible. For us it’s about maximizing the value of your investment, so you don’t need to go out and buy anything extra. One out of every three people in the U.S. already own a Wii Remote.

The Wii U is backward compatible with Wii games — any chance you’ll support visual upscaling or post-processing effects as Sony did for PS1 games on the PS2, and PS2 games on the PS3?

What I can tell you is that we don’t have anything announced on that. It’s possible to play your Wii games on the Wii U, but no, we haven’t announced anything about making any changes to those games in any way or changing how they would appear on the Wii U.

Can you play Wii games on the Wii U GamePad?

No, Wii games are only playable on the main screen.

Nintendo’s “launch window” is fairly big — Nov. 18 through March 13. Can you say which games of these “more than 50″ that we’ll see on launch day, or tell us when you’ll be able to name them?

I realize we’re just two months away, and we’ll certainly provide that clarity as we get closer to launch. The ones we’ve talked about so far are Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U.

MORE: Wii U Out November 18, Priced Up to $350, ‘Nintendo TVii’ Unveiled

26 comments
William Wenge-Murphy
William Wenge-Murphy

Right at the first sentence of her reply I just tune out. The corporate-ese is killing me.

Ken Sharp
Ken Sharp

I only bought the Wii because of the retro games. I have no reason to upgrade. They haven't fixed the damned bugs on the Wii yet.

Spencer Breland
Spencer Breland

I just want to comment that everyone has their favorite system whether it's Nintendo, Xbox, Playstation, PC or even mobile gaming.  We can go on and on to try and state why each system is better, when all it comes down to it, it is your preference.  Wii U is already in the next generation so until we see what Microsoft or Sony has came up with then there definitely should be no argument because of right now, everything is speculation.

Jairn8
Jairn8

I wont waste my time on Nintendo products.  I will wait for the PS4

Bob Jorganson
Bob Jorganson

 But you're wasting your time by replying to an article about the Wii U?

Good ol' JS
Good ol' JS

The Wii-U is a Wii + DS.. real innovative.

Aravas
Aravas

And the PS3 and Xbox 360 are just hardware upgrades of their predecessors.

Matt Goodman
Matt Goodman

If you compare a X360 to a X, or a P3 to a P2, The graphic change is exceptional. The W to a WU seems almost negligible.  Lets look at, the DS, DSI, 3DS, W, WU do you see a diffrence? I see the same thing over and over again with the same type of games with the same type of graphics. Do you see the X360 or P3 doing this? No you don't they upgraded when better equipment came available. The new Xbox is not coming out until at least late 2014. It's been about 8 years since the last Xbox. 

Isaiah Gilliland
Isaiah Gilliland

I'm a game developer. This is my business. The days of gigantic leaps in graphics are over. The only thing left to improve is some shader technology and maybe better particle effects like volumetric particles. Sure maybe we'll be able to get a bit more geometry in later, but normal maps already let us cheat past that now. Besides, point cloud rendering technology may mature enough soon that it'll make graphics upgrades non-existant afterwards with infinite geometry, and that tech could probably run on wii hardware.

It's at an end man, you won't be blown away again. Except maybe point cloud rendering(which I'm very excited about), and like I said nearly anything could probably run it.

An Tran
An Tran

 Yes yes, we now know you like pulling crap out of your anal hole. Like you, I can also make ridiculous statements without any basis. For example: The next Nintendo console after Wii U will be an actual dimensional portal wherein you'll be able to experience your selected game first hand. Forget 3D, forget virtual reality, and forget newer specs. By playing the Nintendo WiiD , you'll literally be IN the game! But be careful, you'll only have one life shared between all game dimensions and real life. If you die in the "game", you're dead for good!

Good ol' JS
Good ol' JS

We may not see eye to eye on the adoption of this system, but that's one that I can certainly get behind you on.  COD1-9000 don't even come close to compare to the way Nintendo has pushed it's franchises.

Aravas
Aravas

I'm aware that it doesn't appeal to everyone, but I'll have to disagree on the single player focus. I think they're looking at single player and asymmetrical multiplayer at the same time, which I think is very interesting, looking at Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U, and the future possibilities. While this might not cater to everyone, it will be a huge hit with the people it does cater for, similar to the Wii's motion controls, except the Wii U's third-party support seems much more promising, as well as the second-party acquisition of Bayonetta 2.

It seems obvious that Nintendo's focusing less on the casual and more on the hardcore, but in hindsight, that might be a great business strategy. The hardcore players obviously buy more games, whereas the casual players just buy the console. I think this was Nintendo's plan all along. All-out casual support for Wii in hopes of garnering a huge casual fan base that would hopefully buy a Wii U through loyalty and interest, if not for the console name itself.

Of course, not everyone's going to fall for that, but this will be a success just because of the sheer amount of interest in the Wii U, especially looking at how many retailers have stopped taking pre-orders so quickly after the prices of the SKUs and release date were announced. But yeah, if you're not interested, that's another thing. They might entice you later on, or they might not, they can't please everyone.

Aravas
Aravas

I don't think you know how money works.

Good ol' JS
Good ol' JS

I appreciate you approaching this as an adult.  You also have to realize that I've been around (and playing) since before the first NES.  I've seen every rehash of every Nintendo first party title come down the line and now they're feeding the same tripe to a new generation and I for one don't understand  how anyone can be happy about Super Mario [insert new title here] game anymore.  That goes for Mario Kart, Sunshine, RPG, or what have you.  

If you really break it down, Nintendo took 80% of the Wii and DS and jammed them together to make the Wii U.  Also, keep in mind that not all of the features you've mentioned for the Wii-U are available for all games.  Let's also keep in mind that the system is still based on wii-motes with one, possibly two of the new controllers supported at the same time.  So the spirit of the system seems to have gotten away from traditional "party" games and moved more towards a single player focus which again moves away from what my children like.

So pretty much while the Wii U may offer more to you and people that share your opinion, it does nothing for me, nor do I think it will captivate all generations as the Wii did with the motion controls.

Aravas
Aravas

3D Mario, 2D Mario, Mario Kart, Paper Mario, Mario Tennis, Mario Baseball, Mario Sports Mix, Mario Strikers. Forgive me if I left anything out, this is from the top of my head.

I'll let you think about the differences between those sub-franchises before I explain why you're point is invalid. Difference between re-hashing and re-imagining.

john schneider
john schneider

"

Look at Call of Duty. How many titles in the past six years? How many changes between those titles?"

there have been 30 mario games in teh past 5 years. I don't even need to bring up my point. there has been little to no change in those 30 games

john schneider
john schneider

you're wrong. The ps4 and xbox720 will be display around 5 times the pixels taht the wii u will. in terms of graphics it will blow the wii u right out of the water. It may even look like real life, needless to say the visuals on teh ps4 and 720 are going to be insane.

Isaiah Gilliland
Isaiah Gilliland

Sigh, people like you are going to stick out more and more. We're reaching a plateau bud. Sorry but you're not going to see that type of leap in graphics anymore. It's over, accept it. With the Wii U now supporting the new graphics APIs the only thing that'll separate amazing graphics from okay graphics is the budget of the game.

Aravas
Aravas

I haven't looked at my DS since the 3DS came out.

And I don't see how this is rehashing. With the 3DS and DS, both screens were part of one system, but with Wii U, it's an entirely different component that has a much more versatile functionality. Of course it has similarities with those consoles, but that's one of the things I love about it, because it's an idea that's close to my favorite handheld, but is enough to do much more. Nintendo TVii, playing off screen, etc. Also, the only thing that can even be remotely considered as rehashing is New Super Mario Bros. and Nintendo has already stated beforehand that they'd be making one installment of that series for each of their consoles, which means you won't see another title in years. Plus, this is the fourth one in six years and NSMBU might be the same game, but with enough features added into it to make it stand out. Might as well call it NSMW. Look at Call of Duty. How many titles in the past six years? How many changes between those titles?

I'm not going to bash your opinion, but I'm stating hardcore facts. If you don't want a Wii U, then that's up to you. If your kids enjoy a Kinect, that's good for them. I have a Kinect, but I didn't enjoy it as much due to lack of compelling games (to me) that use it. Your opinion is your opinion, this is more of a reply to your initial statement.

Good ol' JS
Good ol' JS

I'm a fan of neither Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo.  I just think that supersizing the DS and then rehashing the first party Nintendo titles isn't as fun as the Wii itself was 5 years ago.  My kids don't even play with the Wii anymore.  They're much happier with Kinect.  They haven't so much as looked at their DS's in years.

Aravas
Aravas

Wait, wait. You're saying the Wii U and Wii have barely any graphical difference? The Wii was barely better than the Gamecube and far behind the X360 and PS3. The Wii U is a bit better than the X360 and PS3. That's a HUGE graphical difference. And the DSi doesn't count as a new system. It had some enhanced games, but those games could be played on a DS. And other than the appearance, there's a huge hardware difference between 3DS and DS. The DS could barely run 3D games, which is why sprites were the favored art style on it. With the 3DS, it's graphics are exponentially better than the DS, not to mention the UI is much, much better and at least has online integration with the eShop, friends list, etc.

And are you serious? I ALWAYS see the same thing over and over again with the X360 and PS3. I'm a Microsoft fan, as well as a Nintendo fan, but can you seriously tell me that Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed or Mass Effect have more difference between games than Legend of Zelda, Mario, and Metroid?

And yeah, it's been a while since the last Xbox, but people seem to think that Sony and Microsoft have unlimited bank accounts. Sony's losing money in and outside of the gaming industry, so they can't go out full-force with their next console and Microsoft's in-debt.

Brock Puntenney
Brock Puntenney

I was a lucky one and pre-ordered the deluxe package with in an hour of the announcement. There's gonna be alot of disappointed kids around Christmas.   My family and I are gonna love this.

mikeybruises
mikeybruises

I pre-ordered  a deluxe at Toys R Us.  I called back 2 hours later to order for my brother and they sold out.  Best Buy, Sears, Gamesstop, Walmart (wont ship until 01/31/13) Target and Kmart are kaput. I saw people selling their pre-orders on Ebay for as high as $1500. Lightning strikes again.

Doug Miller
Doug Miller

Wii U looks great, amazing value too!