How Much for That Wii U in the Window?

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How much would you pay for Nintendo’s Wii U? $200? $400? “Nothing,” because you don’t plan to buy one? For those that do (or do contingent on Nintendo meeting a certain price threshold), Montreal news/culture blog Forget the Box says it has a pretty good idea of how much the Wii U costs Nintendo to make, as well as the minimum price the company’s going to sell the game console for when it launches later this year.

Citing sources “closely involved with manufacturing and distributing Nintendo products,” FtB says the total bill of materials for the Wii U, including the console’s unique touchscreen-based controller, is around $180. Of that, the controller reportedly costs just $50. FtB’s source says the Wii U’s final price is still up in the air, but that Nintendo’s planning to sell the system for “no less than $300 retail price.” The exchange rate from Canadian to U.S. dollars is currently 1:1, so that’d be US$300, too.

(MORE: Wii U Launch Date Leaked: Remember, Remember the 18 of November)

For once-in-a-rumor, the site managed to get its source on the record:

Cutting production costs to maximize profits is Nintendo’s main concern with the Wii U. They are cutting costs in the Wii U’s hardware to build back confidence in investors. Nintendo wants investors to view Wii U as a less risky proposition.

Nothing surprising there: Shares of Nintendo fell by nearly a point last week on news the Wii U may contain less powerful internal hardware than thought, as well as analyst speculation that the company could get squeezed by whatever’s next from rivals Microsoft and Sony. The Wii faced similar criticism when it debuted in November 2006, but went on to eclipse Xbox 360 and PS3 sales anyway. At the time, the Wii’s appeal lay in its motion controls, but that’s an angle that’s since been copied and arguably bettered by Microsoft (Kinect) and Sony (PS Move). The touchscreen controller aside, the Wii U has no singular design-related selling point. Persuading buyers the Wii U isn’t risky business is thus down to Nintendo’s first-party games and convincing investors a sufficient number of gamers will pick Mario over Master Chief or Zelda over Nathan Drake when those franchises square off again.

In other costs, the NFC (“near field communication,” basically two-way RFID) chip in the Wii U’s controller is supposed to cost $5, and the cameras — “slightly better quality than the 3DS and DSi” — are reportedly $6. FtB suggests the baseline $300 price (given the $180 bill of materials) is “controversial,” though it acknowledges all the supplementary costs unaccounted for, which range from packaging and shipping to transportation and marketing. Of course companies have long hidden margins in post-assembly costs, making claims that don’t add up (see Microsoft’s $100 Wi-Fi adapter for the Xbox 360, or its pitifully undersized Xbox 360 hard drives). But there’s no law about exorbitant profit margins, and whatever the Wii U eventually sells for, we’ll have to grapple with the age-old question: “Is it worth it to me?”

MORE: What’s in the Next Xbox? Blu-ray, ‘Always Online’ Requirement Claims Site