The Odd Reactions To The Wii U

In the past two days, there have been just as many press conferences for the Wii U from Nintendo. First was the one in Japan that gave us additional insight into the upcoming console. For instance, we learned that it would come in two colors (black and white) and that the GamePads would be hella expensive. Like, prohibitively so.

But that was about it. Based on the Wii’s releases between the US and Japan, differences could be minor or major. Prices, of course, will fluctuate based on the purchasing power of the yen and on current market standings, but things like Wii Sports coming packaged with the console in the US and not in Japan were huge. Well, on the American side of things, anyway.

So going from speculation to fact yesterday as Reggie Fils-Aime spent an hour or so taking us through the bullet points and trying to convince us he’s a Breaking Bad (Barking Bard? Bear-king Bat?), certain things drew ire. Previous speculation that was spot-on like the November 18 release in North America went over as expected because it was, well, expected, but the unknowns or things still up in the air were…troublesome.

The Price

Part of the Wii’s success could be owed to the fact that it was just so darn cheap. Of course it was less powerful than either the Xbox 360 or the PS3 because it was also so much cheaper than either of them. With the 360 released about a year ahead, the Wii and the PS3 essentially went head to head despite their markedly different target audience (or, I guess, eventual target audiences). But even if you included the 360, the Wii still had a $50 lead on Microsoft (more if you wanted actual storage with your machine) and $250 on Sony. Two Wiis for the price of one PS3? It kind of makes the debate on what to buy a non-issue for people hard-up for cash.

So many analysts were expecting a $250/$300 launch price for the Wii U. It was still cheap enough on the base configuration to be potentially a haphazard purchase for the reckless and a smart option for the frugal. It made sense for them to put the Wii U at this price as much as it did for them to guess a pre-Black Friday launch date.

But lo and behold, the analysts’ backup guess came true: a $300/$350 launch. The price now jumped to premium prices (relative to other consoles), as did expectations. Before, expectations were at a $250 level, meaning commensurate with what the Wii is to the 360 and PS3. Jumping up to a 360 launch price now reinforces the fact that from what we’ve seen of the Wii U, we’re not going to get the same jump as with the Microsoft and Sony consoles from the previous generation. This price of the Wii U has now become prohibitive.

Personally, I don’t believe that to be entirely true. To me, purchases become a sliding scale of acceptability. The more you expect to spend, the more I feel there is leeway in the resulting price. For instance, buying a taco, I’m up for a 50-cent upswing because tacos are inherently cheap. If I were to buy a car, the swing that I allow is now much more sizable; if I’m saving up $15,000, what’s another $100 in the long run? I’m certainly not happy about it, but it’s also a car. That $100 is less than 1% of the total cost.

So I understand that the price increase irks some folk, but I also feel like if you’re into games and you’re already up for saving $250 before the official announcement, what’s saving up another $50? A weekend out with the guys? Giving up one luxury for a piece of another luxury doesn’t seem like something you should be hanging your boycott on.

The GamePad

But then again, some things just can’t go unnoticed. While individual purchases of GamePads for the Wii U haven’t been announced for North America, the Japanese price is ¥13,440, or $172 USD. That is more than half the cost of the actual Wii U. And no currently announced games have confirmed the simultaneous use of two GamePads.

So what’s the play here, Nintendo? I understand that the GamePad is a very high-tech piece of equipment (what with being a full-on tablet and all), but this seems to go against the hardware loss leader strategy Nintendo has gone with for so long. And with such a successful and predominantly multiplayer history on the Wii, this may actually scare off buyers looking for co-operative and competitive couch gaming with friends. This, I believe, is more of a barrier to entry than the actual price of the console.

The Pro controller, however, seems more modest at just $50, so there is that.

The Launch Games

Two of them. Well, that’s not entirely true, as so far only two have been confirmed, which is important to note since the actual console won’t come up for another two months. A bunch of games are, however, confirmed for the launch window (which runs until March of 2013), but so far only NintendoLand and New Super Mario Bros. U are confirmed for the actual November 18th date. Sure, more may move up from the window to the launch, but given that this press conference would have been the most opportune time for Nintendo to reaffirm our suspicions, the likelihood of the ones we want doing that are ever so reduced. It also doesn’t help that most of the highlighted window titles are ports of previously released games.

And it definitely doesn’t help that the Wii Sports analog of NintendoLand is only packed in with the Deluxe Edition of the console. Wii Sports pretty much sold the Wii at the beginning (and probably still does, in fact) as it came with every Wii outside of Japan and South Korea, so suddenly that $50 upswing has greater implications than previously thought for the more casual audience.

The Bayonetta 2

The one game, however, that has drawn the most attention has been Bayonetta 2 from Platinum Games. Pretty much no one knew that we’d be seeing it announced at this press conference let alone as a Wii U exclusive, so it was a surprise when we saw Bayonetta’s gun stilettos busting up an angel midway through the talk. It seemed that most people were excited just at the prospect of playing another Bayonetta game.

It only seemed that way, though, in the beginning. Then people began to get riled up at the notion of it being a Wii U exclusive (timed or otherwise wasn’t said). There’s even a Kotaku post all about people tweeting angry responses about Platinum and Bayonetta. Luckily, the studio head Tatsuya Minami responded today, shedding light on the decision to go with Nintendo and drop Sega as a publisher and picking up exclusivity along the way.

“Along with their new hardware, Nintendo, as a company, is dedicated to establishing a new future for the games industry, as you can tell by their record of passionate support for gaming. Alongside Nintendo, we hope to grow the Bayonetta brand beyond where it stands today, allowing even more gamers around the world to experience the action of our beloved witch. As developers, we are working hard to make this a reality.”

So basically, they figure they can reach more people given the “state of upheaval” of games today with Nintendo than with what Sega has to offer. I’m not sure if I totally buy what Minami is getting at, but I do feel like the vitriolic reaction to the announcement is undeserved. Of course buying an entire console to play one game is ludicrous, but being angry that a sequel to a game that you like is being made seems just as absurd. You have to ask yourself if it would be better if Bayonetta 2 wasn’t being made at all.

That question, however, can’t be answered fully until it comes out, but the same can be said for whether or not the Wii U is worth owning. Being angry at the existence of either before they even play out is basically why Rotten Tomatoes shut down comments for The Dark Knight Rises. You know, because people be crazy.

The Compatibility

Nintendo, out of the big three, has probably been the most supportive and the biggest pioneer of the revitalization of old titles. The Virtual Console initiative is pretty much what spawned HD remakes of old classics like Ico and Splinter Cell (as well as the Game Room on 360, but let’s not talk about that), so it’s no surprise that the Wii U will boast backwards compatibility with “nearly all Wii software.”

Not only that, but you can transfer just about everything from your Wii to your Wii U. Pretty awesome, right? The only catch is that you have to have both your Wii and your Wii U on and connected to do the transfer, so be sure to not trade-in early at GameStop or anything or you’ll lose your chance to hold on to all of your hard work/virtual representation of your spending power (which can be augmented with the Deluxe Digital Promotion, a limited(?) program that will allow you to gain back points based on 10% of a download for future purchases).

The Rest

Of course, the same quibbling remains from before about how powerful the Wii U is going to be and whether Nintendo can still crank out enough quality first-party titles to keep them going, but that’s all speculation, more so than even the reactions to everything that was announced yesterday. As a community of gamers, all we can really do is wait and see how everything goes on and after November 18th.

What will be even more interesting is what Nintendo will do with the one+ year of development and tweak time afforded them by releasing so far ahead of the next Microsoft and Sony consoles. Singularity, hoooo!

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