[EDITOR'S NOTE: All the US Wii launch details below--and more--have since been directly confirmed at Nintendo's New York City press conference.]
As Nintendo officially revealed details about the Wii's Japanese launch in Tokyo, reports in the New York Times answered the questions on millions of US gamers' minds: When will the Wii go on sale here? What will it cost? How many games will it have at launch?
As it turns out, the console will arrive on Sunday, November 19, in North America and South America. That puts the console's launch just two days after that of its archrival, the PlayStation 3, which has recently seen its own debut scaled down.
But while only 400,000 PS3s will be available at launch, the Times claims that the Wii will be "far more available in stores this holiday season" than its competitor due to its cheaper and simpler form factor. Nintendo has since announced plans to ship 4 million Wiis worldwide by the end of 2006, nearly double the 2 to 2.3 million shipped PS3s Sony is now forecasting.
As many suspected, the Wii will cost $250 in the US, according to the article. Since Nintendo executives have said it would be under $250, the likely final price will be $249.99 or $249.95. It is now also confirmed that it will have more than 25 first- and third-party games available at launch, with 30 on shelves by the end of the year. First-party games will cost just $50, $10 less than most third-party PS3 and Xbox 360 games; it was unclear what third-party Wii games will cost.
Since the Times story went live, Nintendo has also announced that the classic NES, SNES, and N64 games downloadable to the Wii's Virtual Console would range from $5 to $10 in price, in line with most Xbox Live Arcade games. Some 30 titles will be available at launch, including unnamed installments from the Donkey Kong, Zelda, and Mario franchises, with a total of 60 arriving by the end of the year.
But while many had hoped for a console that would cost $199 or less, the Wii will have something not seen in a Nintendo launch since the SNES--a game packed in with a console from day one. (Note: Several GameCube bundles were offered postlaunch.) As rumored, the console will come with the Wii Sports compilation that was shown off at the Electronic Entertainment Expo earlier this year. The game comp will let players engage in bouts of baseball, bowling, golf, tennis, and boxing using the Wii's motion-sensing controller.
"Our goal is to bring gaming back to the masses," Nintendo of America president and chief operating officer Reggie Fils-Aime said in a statement. "You see that in our pricing, you see that in the number of units we plan to make available this year, and you see that in how we are positioning the Wii to appeal to every member of the household, including but not limited to the hardcore gamer."
[UPDATE 10] Nintendo has now confirmed that the Wii version of Twilight Princess will be available on November 19, but the GameCube edition won't arrive until sometime in December. The company also said that Excite Truck will also be on sale on day one of the Wii era, but Metroid Prime 3: Corruption won't arrive in stores until 2007, the same year that the Times claims the first Wii Mario game will appear.
As originally reported, the Wii will have Web-surfing capabilities akin to that of a home computer. After purchasing the Wii's Opera browser using prepaid Nintendo points, gamers will be able to surf the Web using the Wii-mote controller as a mouse.
Nintendo also appears to be moving away from its GameCube-era "game consoles should be for games only" mantra. Besides the Wii's previously announced DVD playback abilities, the console will also have many multimedia functions, called "Wii channels." These media functions are demonstrated at length via a series of videos on the Japanese Wii Web site, which show off the Wii's weather channel, news channel, messaging services, and "Mii channel," which lets players create custom, cartoon-like avatars for use in games. The Wii will also let users upload and edit photos from SD memory cards and share them on the Web.
"We are including all of these capabilities as part of our overall strategy to expand the gaming market," Fils-Aime told the Times. "Broadening the market is important because it will breathe new life into this business. Otherwise, this industry is moving down a path of being more and more limited to the hardcore gamer."
[UPDATE 9] Early Thursday morning, the Wii's launch date, price, and shipment numbers were also reported by USA Today. The national daily also said that both Super Mario 64 and the original Legend of Zelda would be available on the Wii's virtual console at launch.
As for Europe, Nintendo is holding an event in London on Friday to reveal its Wii launch plans for that continent.