After an exceedingly long wait, Nintendo announced recently that the Wii U, its next-generation console, will launch on November 18 in the U.S. The Basic Set will set customers back $299, while the Deluxe offering will cost $349.
For those who haven’t spent too much time focusing on the Wii U, the console will ship with HD graphics – a major omission in the Wii – as well as 8GB or 32GB of onboard storage, depending on the version customers pick. Add that to the touchscreen-equipped GamePad, support for Wii remotes, and a traditional, Pro, controller, and consumers will find the whole package Nintendo is offering.
With the announcement of the device’s launch date, Nintendo also opened up preorders on the Wii U. As expected, Nintendo fans have jumped at the chance to be first in line to get their hands on the console, and hardcore gamers are buying it up because, well, that’s what they do.
But for the rest of us, choosing the preorder now isn’t so easy. The console looks great and all, but there are still a host of concerns that Nintendo hasn’t answered that could make or break the value we see in the device.
Chief among those concerns is how much the Wii U’s games will cost. Nintendo has said that its console will have about 50 games available to customers between launch day and the end of March, and it has even said that a new Super Mario game will be available, but those titles will cost $60.
That’s a problem. Nintendo customers have been conditioned to pay less for games for the last two generations. Now they’re paying the same as Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 customers for graphics that really don’t seem all that much better than what we’ve seen to this point? That’s a problem if I’ve ever seen one.
But it’s not just that. The Wii U will undoubtedly offer up better graphics than its predecessor, but there is real concern that it won’t be that much of a step up over the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. In fact, many of the games that are available on those other devices are now coming to the Wii U as simple ports. That’s not exactly the most reassuring news to people who are considering plunking down $300 or $350, plus games, to buy a console.
And what about Nintendo TVii? The platform undoubtedly looks interesting and I don’t doubt for a second that it will enhance the overall entertainment factor in the living room for some, but let’s not forget that this has been tried by Google TV and failed. We also can’t forget that Microsoft is trying its own luck with a dual-screen experience with the Xbox 360, and that could be trouble for Nintendo.
Inevitably what I’m getting at is that I just don’t know what kind of value the Wii U is offering yet. There are still far too many question marks to count, and it appears Nintendo is trying to limit offering up answers to those until it must.
For would-be buyers, that’s a red flag. And it’s something that you should definitely keep in mind before preordering the Wii U.
The Wii U might be a great device. But right now, there’s no way to tell. Don’t forget that.
Don Reisinger is a technology and video game columnist. You can see what he's up to each day on Twitter by following him @donreisinger.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SlashGear