Today is September 14--the day of Nintendo's 2006 press event and the day the company made some important, and in some cases shocking, announcements. The highly anticipated Wii console will launch in North America on November 19 at a retail price of $249.99...higher than some GameSpot editors thought (or hoped), but still a far cry from $499/$599 price point of the PlayStation 3. Nintendo has also revealed that the Wii will have a whopping 101-game lineup, with a launch lineup in North America of 25 games, including the long-awaited The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, as well as Wii Sports as a pack-in. Plus, the Wii will have multimedia capabilities, such as photo albums; cartoonlike avatars that can be used in Wii games; and even Web browsing. It also revealed that the Virtual Console, the Wii's online game service that lets customers download and play older console games of yesteryear, will launch with about 30 games, including Donkey Kong, Mario, and Zelda. And possibly the best news of all: The company plans to ship about 4 million Wii units worldwide by the end of the year, with the majority of the shipment going to North America.
It's a lot of exciting news to take in, so GameSpot's editors have put their heads together and tried to make some sense of it all. Post your gut reactions to the Nintendo news by leaving us a comment below!
However, Nintendo revealed a number of other surprises, some of which contradict the company's previous stance about how the Wii is engineered specifically to be a game system. We learned today, though, that the system will include a photo-viewing feature, Web-browsing capabilities, and so on. These features looked interesting, but I'm somewhat indifferent toward them. As for the Virtual Console stuff, $10 for a Nintendo 64 game seems a little pricey at this point, but I'm glad Nintendo at least shed some new light on pricing and availability. And with Genesis and Turbografx games in the mix, why not throw in Game Boy Advance games, too?
I'm excited about the Wii. I'm still not sold on how well that remote is going to work over time, but it's novel and interesting, and the system sounds like it's gearing up to have a great launch lineup. So the main thing that still troubles me about the system is that it won't support high-definition displays. I understand and respect Nintendo's stance about not getting caught up in an "arms race" with Sony and Microsoft about overall system power, but HD-quality visuals seem like they'll be a necessity in a couple of years if they aren't a necessity already. But hey, we all know that Nintendo has a way of getting people to buy their new hardware, then getting people to buy an upgraded model, right? Ask yourself, how many portable Nintendo systems do you own? So maybe an HD-capable Wii isn't outside the realm of possibility for the future. If there are technical constraints preventing the Wii remote from working as well in HD as it does in standard definition, I'm sure some very smart people at Nintendo are all over that problem already.
Finally--man, what a crazy November this will be. Gears of War, probably 20-plus PS3 games, and 20-plus Wii games. Our work's cut out for us."
Nintendo is clearly hoping that the photo-sharing and Web-browsing features of the Wii will help make it something that the whole family will gather around, but I'm not sure how well that'll take. Families that would go to the trouble of pulling digital albums from their cameras to display on a big screen in the living room probably already have some kind of media PC set up at home for this purpose. Living room Web browsing also doesn't seem like it'll make a huge hit--just look at the nonimpact that the old WebTV service had. That one was predicated on using a TV set to browse the Internet and check e-mail and was later quietly acquired by Microsoft--for use with home media centers that media-savvy families are already using.
The biggest news beyond the price tag and launch quantities is the games. Zelda on the Wii is obviously a big deal, but I have to admit, I'm more interested in the Virtual Console games at this point. But the pricing seems a little too steep for me. Then again, Nintendo is also charging $40 for extra controllers and $20 for extra attachments. But hooking people on base hardware, then nickel-and-diming customers to death with hardware and software add-ons after launch isn't at all like Nintendo, the creator of the GameCube link cable, the e-reader, the Game Boy player, three different Game Boy Advance models, and two different Nintendo DS models...right?
Still, we've heard that older Donkey Kong, Zelda, and Mario games will make an appearance, as well as R-Type at some point. And we still don't know if Nintendo will get full backing from all its current (and former) third-party partners to fill out a humongous, encyclopedic back catalog of NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis games, which is something I'm still hoping to see announced in the near future. That's the last piece of the puzzle for me--that, and some kind of cheaper package deal that doesn't make me pay $5-on-up for each one of my old favorites."
The biggest news isn't the price or the date, because we knew roughly what those would be anyway. The big news is that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a launch title. That's a monster of a killer app on par with Halo or Super Mario 64. It would be nice to see Mario return for a launch, but the presence of Zelda more than makes up for Mario's absence. Plus, there's a healthy selection of other launch titles, as well as some classics available on the Virtual Console. At first I thought the Virtual Console pricing seemed a bit steep, but I do like the flat-rate pricing. That means that you'll pay the same $5 for The Legend of Zelda that you'd pay for something like Ice Climber. Of course, you could look at that as a rip-off for Ice Climber instead of a bargain for Zelda, but the point is that there is no premium charge for premium games, and that's great news.
I also love the fact that the Wii is going to ship with a pack-in game--five of them, actually. I remember the days of the NES when you could buy a system and know that you'd get two controllers, a light gun, and two games right there in the box. The fact that the Wii comes with everything you need to start playing right away (other than a second controller) also makes life a little easier for gift-buying parents this holiday season. And with 4 million units by the end of the year, it sounds like there will be plenty of Wiis to go around."
The date is also interesting. I'd been banking on Nintendo throwing up a different kind of challenge to Sony and launching well ahead of the PS3. But instead, the Wii will come a mere two days post-PS3 launch and be there just in time for the biggest shopping days of the year, at under half of the PS3's cost. In the immortal words of John Travolta in Face/Off, "Wii! What a predicament!"
The Virtual Console announcement is perhaps the most intriguing thing of all. We all kind of knew what would be available, but the structuring of it gives me pause. I dig the fact that Nintendo is blatantly ripping off the XBLA points system, and doing it in a more mathematically sensible way to boot, but the pricing is a little dicey. $5 for NES games, $8 for SNES games, and $10 for N64 games seems odd, considering that A.) Most retailers have used copies of those same games for even less, and B.) Is this really going to pull the illegal emulator crowd away from their free alternative? You could say the same thing about the arcade games available for XBLA, but to those games' credit, they not only include subtle improvements like online play and updated graphics in several instances, but arcade games aren't often available for home play, and in the cases when they are, old 8-bit and 16-bit ports didn't typically do those games justice. I'm also a little shocked that there won't be more titles available from the get-go. C'mon Nintendo, your library is sickeningly big. Let's open it up and get these titles up there for download.
All told, I'm cautiously optimistic about all things Wii right now. I'll certainly end up buying one at some point before the year's end, and though I think the launch lineup of games could stand to be stronger, there are a few key titles in there that I'm looking forward to playing. Nintendo has positioned itself nicely--now all it has to do is follow through with games that are as fun as they want you to believe they are."
I'm lukewarm about the pricing of Virtual Console games--$5 for an NES game, $8 for SNES, and $10 for N64. I'd be more inclined to make impulse purchases if those numbers were halved. Of course, I'm also the guy that thinks that iTunes is horribly overpriced. However, the fact that the company is going to add 10 games a month to the Virtual Console roster has me totally stoked.
I love that Nintendo will have the console out in absolute force once it launches. With 4 million units shipped by the end of the year, I think just about anyone that wants a Wii will be able to find one on a shelf somewhere. I've gone through too many console launches without a unit in sight. Hopefully, none of us will have to camp outside of a store under the warmth (or lack thereof) of a late-November moon."
Just as interesting as the games and the launch details is the multimedia functionality of the Wii, though I'm a lot more skeptical about that. After all, being able to import photos from a memory card and e-mail them to your friends sounds cute at first, but the more you think about it, the more the prospect of using the Wii to edit your photos seems like a stretch. You can do the same job much faster and more easily on a PC or Mac, rather than waving a Wii controller around. And if you've got a digital camera, then you've already got one or the other. Not to mention, computer displays are a lot sharper than a standard-definition television, which the Wii uses.
And I've never understood the need to put a browser in a console. Sure, you'll have to pay extra to purchase the browser for the Wii, but why would you want to? Surfing the Web on a console seems to be more hassle than it's worth. Text input is a pain unless you have some kind of keyboard (the PSP is a prime example of how mind numbing a process text entry with a gamepad can be), and most Web pages nowadays are formatted in resolutions much higher than the standard-definition resolution the Wii uses. It seems that Nintendo is throwing all these options in to make the Wii seem much more of a value, but they're just not that important, especially when the Wii is supposed to be about games."
The best news to come out of Nintendo this morning, I think, is that there will be about 4 million Wii consoles available worldwide before the end of the year. Regardless of the fact that I've done it twice since moving to the US, I don't really like to camp outside of stores just so I can get my hands on the latest gaming hardware, and 4 million units sounds like a good number to me--especially given that the PlayStation 3 is launching right around the same time. Are many people really going to want both systems at launch? I'm guessing not, though that's largely because I don't want either--there are plenty of good games that I haven't found the time to play on my Xbox 360 yet. The list of upcoming games for the Wii looks pretty impressive at first glance, but there are very few titles on it that get me excited or that I wouldn't rather play on another system.
I am, however, very much looking forward to revisiting some classic games using the Virtual Console system, but I'm concerned that Nintendo hasn't yet mentioned whether or not those games will benefit from updated visuals or features. I'll happily shell out some Wii points for Rock 'N Roll Racing with online play or a prettier version of Shadowrun, but I still have a Super Nintendo system with those games packed away somewhere, so I have no intention of paying for them again. Will I get a Wii? Of course I will. Nintendo has already proved me wrong by making the DS a huge success, and I've no doubt that the Wii will go the same way. Do I want one at launch? Not at all, but when there are more games available and the console's first price drop happens, I'll be first in line."
I'm a little less enthused about the $60 you'll have to pay to get an additional Wii remote and nunchaku attachment, and I wish there had been more talk about the "classic" controller, an extra peripheral that you'll all but need if you want to play N64 games through the virtual console. Speaking of which, the rollout for the Virtual Console games is set to happen much more rapidly than I anticipated. Though I'm not a fan of giving a company money up front to make an actual purchase some time in the future, the fact that 500 Wii points translates into $5.00 makes the goofy math that Microsoft uses for pricing Xbox Live Marketplace points seem like a needless cover-up.
While news headlines and weather reports don't really light a fire under me, I'm intrigued by the whole Wii Channel thing regardless, and I'm ready for more details about how, exactly, you'll be able to send messages to people on their phones or their PCs. But I'm a bit annoyed that we're going to get charged extra for the Opera Web browser, a piece of software that, in virtually every other form, is free, though I guess I should be grateful that Nintendo isn't including any service fees for the WiiConnect24 system.
I guess there weren't too many massive surprises here, good or bad. I still have my doubts about just how well the motion-sensing controls will work out over the long run, but that price point is definitely going to make the Wii seem mighty appealing to folks who aren't ready to pony up $400 to $600 for a new video game system."
The Wii's November 19 US launch date could be troublesome for Sony, which has already announced that it's delaying the PlayStation 3's European launch and cutting launch units for the US and Japan due to Blu-ray component shortages. What are parents going to do when they see an empty PlayStation 3 shelf with a fat $500 to $600 price sign sitting next to a shelf full of $249 Wii systems? Add in a Wii demo kiosk surrounded by intrigued kids having a great time figuring out the new controller, and I think we have a big problem for Sony.
Everyone called the Xbox Microsoft's Trojan horse for the living room, but it looks like the Wii will be the first major console manufacturer to put out a gaming device that will also offer basic PC functionality. Wii Channels will provide a variety of applications and information on demand. Applications like the photo editor and the Opera Web browser will give the Wii basic desktop functionality. Now we just need a keyboard.
Nintendo has only shown news and weather information channels thus far, but I can see how the service has the potential to mature into a compelling media outlet all delivered over the Internet. I'd love to be able to save my favorite Web pages or assign RSS feeds to individual "channels" in the Wii menu, for example."