A Best Buy Canada front page ad let the cat out of the bag before Nintendo had a chance to: Following its (by all accounts) successful launch of the Wii U, Nintendo says it’ll launch a pint-sized version of the plain-vanilla Wii.
The kicker: It’ll be exclusive to Canada.
According to the ad, which was live early this morning, the “Wii mini” (that’s lowercase “m” just like Apple’s iPad mini — coincidence?) arrives on Dec. 7. That’s a week from this coming Friday.
Nintendo followed a few hours later, confirming all of the above with an official splash page touting the new candy-apple-red system for $99.99.
And here’s the part that’s just bizarre: It won’t connect to the Internet. That’s right: No Wi-Fi, no online features in games, nada. So much for WiiWare downloads, the Virtual Console, the Internet Channel and so forth. And like last year’s Wii redesign, the Wii mini won’t play GameCube games.
So what do you get for $100 (just $30 less than a new Wii bundled with Wii Sports and Sports Resort)? A tinier top-loading Wii, a sensor bar, the Nunchuk and a Wii Remote Plus.
That probably explains why Nintendo isn’t announcing the system stateside at this point. Who’d want a neutered Wii, even for $100 (though I can’t imagine why Canadians would, either)? Why, for instance, would you think not being able to play hundreds of games for nearly a dozen vintage systems justifies saving $30?
It’s hard to see the sense here. Everyone knows what a Wii is, whether they’ve played one or not. By introducing a newer, cheaper alternative that would have at least retained Internet connectivity, Nintendo could have increased the probability that someone looking for a casual, family-oriented, impulse-priced console would spring for a Wii, as opposed, say, to something like Microsoft’s much more expensive, entry-level 4GB Xbox 360 ($200) or frankly anything else in console-dom, from a price standpoint.
Instead, we get the puzzling Wii mini, a cuter, slightly less expensive offline box, that — unlike Apple’s iPad mini — is clearly not “every inch a Wii.”
Update: Nintendo just got back to me on the Wii mini’s availability in Canada and elsewhere.
Wii Mini is available exclusively in Canada during the holiday season. No information is available about its potential availability in other territories in the future.
So not a definite no then, in case you live in the U.S. and you’re actually intrigued by the proposition of an emasculated Wii.