Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wii: 11/19, $250 w/ it Enough?

I'm really sitting on the fence about the Wii news today (and by the way, welcome back; I know I've been gone for a bit). The system comes out on Sunday, November 19th, which is 2 days after the Playstation 3 release (more on this in another post) and it will come packaged with the Wii Sports games that now include Boxing and Bowling along with Tennis, Golf and Baseball. The price will be $250 in North America and roughly $215 in Japan minus the game on December 2nd.

The price and the included items (along with some other key components) are what have me on the fence. The price would be nice if an extra Wiimote (the controller) was in the box. Why would you put Wii Sports as a pack-in and not have a second controller along with the system? Wouldn't you be interested in playing the game with your family? I know I would, so I'd have to spend an extra $40 to get another Wiimote (and add $20 more for the nunchuck's add-on). For those that have larger families (such as children), you may have to spend another $80 on top of that (and another $40 for the nunchucks) to have the full complement of 4 controllers in order to play 2-on-2 tennis for instance. The absence of a second controller is a huge thing in my mind, especially with a pack-in game that screams multiplayer play.

At $250 with a game and one controller it seems a bit bare compared to even the Xbox 360 core system. I don't know how much the SD cards will cost for the Wii, but I do know the 64MB memory card for 360 costs $40, so those are addition costs just to save a game on either system. It does show the Wii as a cheaper value, but we once again fall back on the idea that the Wii is just a glorified GameCube at its core. The hardware power is not up to snuff against either the 360 or PS3, and for many people that will be a big thing to them. This doesn't speak about the games created for the systems, but it is tough to swallow $250 when there is a $300 more powerful system option out there.

Nintendo has made other mistakes with the Wii release as well. The first one is the fact that the Wii will drop 2 days after the PS3. Why not bring it out before even if there are lower numbers of systems available? For those that want all 3 systems and don't want to pre-order the 2 new systems, that means standing in line in the middle of November for 2 days in the same week. For people in the upper Midwest (like myself), things can get quite nippy that time of year. Many will decide between one or the other or they may decide to buy neither.

The second mistake is that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess will be available on the Wii at launch, but Nintendo has PUSHED BACK the GameCube release of the game to December 12th?!?!?! What in the hell is up with that? I hate when Nintendo backs out of what they said. Reggie said at E3 that both copies would be out at launch, but now the GameCube version comes out weeks down the line? The dirty thing is that this may push some people to pick up the Wii version simply to have the game first, but many of us have been waiting years for the GameCube version (such as myself). I personally am not too excited about the Wii version of Zelda because I think the Wii controller aspects were added way down the line and may not be as fully implemented as they could be. I think there will be a bunch of tired arms out there after playing this new Zelda game that will supposedly be very long. The only thing I was excited about with the Wii version was that it was in widescreen while the GameCube version is not. However you will NOT be able to play the Wii version with the old GameCube controller, so you're stuck with Wii controls for the game, which is a mistake in my opinion.

The third mistake is that they announced Metroid Prime 3: Corruption won't be out until 2007. I'm not necessarily surprised by the announcement, but I think it would have been a strong signal if that game was available at the launch of the Wii. We all knew that Mario Galaxy wasn't going to be out at launch, but Nintendo did leave the door open for Metroid.

The fourth mistake can be interpreted as not being a mistake. Nintendo announced the prices of the NES, SNES and N64 games via the Virtual Console. They will rely on Wii points in at least North America, which means it will be much like the Microsoft Marketplace points. You go the store and pick up 2000 points for $20. Here is the breakdown of prices (they did not announce TG16 prices for games like Bonk's Adventure which comes out at launch):

NES: 500 points (or $5)
SNES: 800 points (or $8)
N64: 1000 points (or $10)

They expect to have 30 games at launch and 10 games every month thereafter. When taking the Xbox Live Arcade titles into account I see no problem with the prices, but this is also a double-edged sword because chances are high there will be far more people interested in the games released for the Wii than the ones on Xbox Live Arcade. Live Arcade has had its share of old titles (Gauntlet, Smash TV, Pac-Man, Frogger), but it has also been home to some great original games like Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and Wik. In the case of the old titles, many have been given High-Definition updates and run for about the same price as the NES games above. I think a lot of people are not too giddy about the prices, but I think Nintendo is standing up to Microsoft quite well. Microsoft will be the leader in original Arcade things, but I think the Nintendo library is going to be huge on the Wii; especially for those of us that played those old games.

In the end I doubt I'll be picking up a Wii at launch. The lack of a 2nd controller and the whole Zelda fiasco is enough to put me in that camp. I am interested in seeing an actual live demo of the Wii as well. The system sounds excellent in concept, but actually sitting/standing and moving your hands in order to control the game may not work in practice. There may be a lot of tired arms out there, but the concept is certainly innovative.