In hopes of ramping up Wii U sales momentum, Nintendo finally dropped the price of the Wii U Deluxe from $350 to $300 this week, bringing the only game console that ships with a dedicated gaming tablet in line with what you’d pay for a new PS3 or Xbox 360, while putting a bit more distance between the system and Sony‘s upcoming PS4 ($400) or Microsoft‘s Xbox One ($500), both due in November.
Should you buy one? Let’s step through a few pros and cons.
$300 still looks pricey to me.
The Wii cost $250 at launch and its price fell from there (it’s now in the $130-$140 range). The Wii U’s significantly higher price, according to Nintendo, has to do with the Wii U GamePad. And yet Nintendo’s never really made the case for that GamePad to the sort of consumers who snatched up the Wii in droves. I suspect so-called casual gamers still don’t understand what’s so great about it or what it even does — it lacks the grab-and-go simplicity of the Wii’s motion controls — while more traditional gamers probably look at the tablet as an overpriced toy, inclined to view the second screen as a novelty mechanic when playing games on their TVs.
Right or wrong, I also suspect many view the Wii U as a souped up Wii, not a grand gameplay shift in the sense the Wii was. And even then, while the Wii did very well for Nintendo, it was reputedly a system you bought to play a handful of games or dragged out over the holidays for family shenanigans, then shelved for the better part of the year.
Nintendo had a chance to tie the Wii U to the DS — the bestselling dedicated games handheld in history, after all — and botched it. Had the company instead sold the Wii U as emblematic of Nintendo’s unique dual-screen philosophy, it might have appealed more to skeptics (and DS wonks).
Doesn’t it lag behind the competition, power-wise?
Never mind its precise position in the hierarchy of polygon-and-texel-crunching architectures, the Wii U can’t do what the PS4 and Xbox One can, visually speaking. That means multi-platform next-gen games — if they’re made for the Wii U at all — are going to lack some of that next-gen chrome. I could care less about most of that, since everyone’s outputting at high-def, but I’m aware that plenty do (care), and in any case, system performance is definitely a problem if it causes developers to ignore a platform outright.
Hey, the 3DS is killing the PS Vita!
It sure is — heck, the 3DS has been killing everything (much like the DS before it). So power isn’t the be all, end all. That said, the 3DS costs a lot less than a Wii U, and it boasts a much stronger games library at this point.
Okay, but the Wii U’s games are cheaper than the competition.
Correction: some of the games are cheaper. Nintendo hopped on the $60 bandwagon with games like New Super Mario Bros. U as well as much of its third-party lineup. On balance, it probably has the most non-indie sub-$60 games, from New Super Luigi U and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD to LEGO City: Undercover, Nintendo Land and Wii Party U. In other words, you’ll probably spend less on Wii U games than you would when buying non-indie PS4 or Xbox One titles.
Yeah, but Nintendo’s Nintendo, right?
Sure, there’s always that. Where else can you play Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong and the like? No one else has Nintendo’s IP lineup or cross-demographic brand recognition (and no one else has Shigeru Miyamoto). Whether you think the company’s been resting on its laurels (and Miyamoto’s) with said IP and not rewriting the rules in the sense it did with games like Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Super Mario Galaxy is another matter.
The games are finally worth playing.
Here’s your strongest argument in favor of buying a Wii U today: a slew of great Wii U-exclusive games. LEGO City Undercover is one of the finest sandbox games around. The Wonderful 101 sounds pretty darned wonderful indeed (says one of the hardest, smartest graders around). Who doesn’t want to play The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (my personal favorite in the series) in high-def? And you’ve got Pikmin 3, Wii Party U, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Super Mario 3D World — all in the hopper before the year’s out.
There’s the entire Nintendo back-catalog to think about.
Can anyone match Nintendo for nostalgic appeal? Alright, maybe Sony, if it ever pulls the PlayStation 2 out of mothballs, but until then, Nintendo’s eShop is the only place to play beloved Game Boy and NES classics.
If you’re an indie fan, the Wii U’s definitely ready to dish: Cloudberry Kingdom, A World of Keflings, So Hungry, Mutant Mudds Deluxe, Nihilumbra, Cubemen 2, Q.U.B.E. and Tengami, just for starters.
It’s more than just a game system.
Most consoles are nowadays, but the Wii U has a few unique tricks up its sleeve: You can use the Wii U GamePad as a TV remote, use it to control your TiVo DVR or scan information about programs (or sports events, updated in real time) while they’re playing on your TV screen. You can also use the GamePad as a portable TV of sorts, watching programs on it while someone else is using the television.
Isn’t it a problem that Nintendo isn’t moving systems?
It is a problem, because you can’t lure triple-A developers with a crappy install base, and the Wii U’s been a sales dog since it launched. If you’re not the betting type, you might wait until after the holiday season to see how things go, though that’s a problem if everyone does it. Make no mistake about it: Platforms are investments — if you want one to succeed, at some point you have to throw in.
That’s the question you have to ask at this point then: Is there enough in Nintendo’s quiver to convince you to tip your wallet? To make the purchase pay off whether the system surges ahead or eventually settles for third? Figure that out, and you’ve got your answer.