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Nintendo's Wii U reveal: What worked? What didn't? Exclusive
Nintendo's Wii U reveal: What worked? What didn't?
September 13, 2012 | By Chris Morris

September 13, 2012 | By Chris Morris
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

Nintendo went for a big splash Thursday morning, revealing launch details for its Wii U. Gamasutra editor-at-large Chris Morris looks at the highlights and low-lights of the event in this op-ed.

So now a lot of the mysteries about the Wii U have been solved. Nintendo wasted no time Thursday morning announcing the system's launch date and price -- and spent the rest of its press event talking features and games.

It was a solid event with lots of information, but it wasn't quite the home run the company was likely hoping it would be. (Call it a stand-up double, if you want to stick with the baseball metaphor.) While Nintendo certainly wooed its audience with some of the Wii U details, it attracted a lot of grumbling from other corners of the video game world.

Let's take a look at the company's hits and misses.

Pricing: My colleague Matt Matthews looks at the system's $300 base price point in detail here, and it's an excellent analysis of how the Wii U compares to other system launches. What I've noted, though, is that while most analysts and industry observers had predicted that $300 price point, there was still a lot of surprise among gamers.

$300 isn't outrageous, given the technology in the box (nor is $350 for the beefier Deluxe version). And given how much grief Nintendo took for leaving money on the table during the Wii launch, it makes sense to roll out its new system at a slightly higher price. Mass audiences are used to paying that amount for new systems -- and if Nintendo markets it smartly, showcasing the GamePad in the right light, the Wii U could easily be a tough-to-find item during the holidays.

It's worth noting that Microsoft has already reacted. Walmart rolled back prices on the Xbox 360 4GB/Kinect bundle this morning to $250, a move it wouldn't have taken without a tactic blessing from Redmond.

We may or may not see an official price cut in the weeks to come, but expect more specials along these lines this holiday.

Nintendo Land bundle: One of the keys to the Wii's success was the inclusion of Wii Sports, which let every owner instantly "get" the console and what was different about it. For the Wii U, Nintendoland is that game.

Sure, bundling it with the more expensive Deluxe version makes that SKU more attractive to shoppers, but it would have been a smarter move to simply include it with every Wii U. Because Nintendo tries to open up new avenues of gaming with its consoles these days, it needs to hold the hand of new players. By withholding that optimized title from some buyers, it could be hurting future software sales.

Second GamePads: Nintendo didn't talk about the sale of GamePads on an individual basis at its event -- and hasn't addressed the topic in its press releases. That doesn't mean they won't be on sale in November, but it sheds doubt on the possibility. (Edit: Nintendo has now confirmed they will not sell Gamepads on a standalone basis.)

Personally, I hope we don't see individual GamePad sales in the U.S. soon (though it appears they will be available in Japan). There are no games that take advantage of them now, and there won't be for a long while.

"Asymmetric gameplay is going to be the next major step forward, just like active play was when we launched the Wii," Reggie Fils-Aime told Gamasutra back at E3. "We think that's where developers will focus first, then there will be multiple experiences that have two GamePads."

Selling individual Gamepads now just reduces the number they can include in Wii U hardware, and right now, it's more important to get those systems in people's homes.

Nintendo TVii: Nintendo was already a leader in non-gaming entertainment. A study by the Nielsen Co. last July found that 25 percent of Netflix subscribers currently stream movies and TV shows via the Wii -- twice as many as the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Expanding on that makes sense. And while Nintendo isn't offering a whole lot that Microsoft doesn't already offer, it's doing so for free, and ramping up the social aspects a bit. The added personalization for family members is also a welcome touch.

Nintendo TVii is a show-me story, but it's one that has a good bit of potential.

Launch date: I was worried about this one, especially after hearing the company's plans to launch the Wii U in Japan in December. November 18 is as close to perfect timing as there is. It gives the company two big retail pushes in one week: Sunday and five days later on Black Friday.

It lacks the lyrical quality of 11/11, but really... who cares about that?

Games: While Nintendo focused heavily on the Wii U's game catalog, there was a distinct lack of "wow" on display Thursday. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2? Ok, it's good to see it will be there (presumably at launch), but did anyone really think Activision was going to bypass the launch of a high definition system?

Bayonetta 2? It's a nice get, but there was not only no gameplay in that teaser, there wasn't even sizzle. As Adam Sessler so wisely pointed out, if that's their bar for entry in announcing upcoming games, why not do the same with some of their own mega-franchises?

Promises are nice, but Nintendo didn't seem to connect with the core audience in this presentation. Teasers aside, it primarily announced a whole bunch of titles in the launch window that Xbox and PlayStation gamers are already prepared for.

And, with the exception of Nintendo Land, the company didn't reach out much to the "casual" crowd either.

That may not matter when the Wii U hits shelves, since there's always an initial feeding frenzy for a new console, but as Nintendo learned with the 3DS launch, the game library is critical. And it needs to deliver a regular stream of quality titles in year one if it wants to have solid legs under it when Microsoft and Sony come out swinging with their new consoles.

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warren blyth
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* I think they didn't offer more substance-free trailers because : they don't want to distract from what is in the launch window. I'd argue they made an exception for Bayonetta2 because they're starved for 3rd party exclusives.

* I think the gameplay message was critically bungled.

Players think "i already have an ipad. yawn". but they don't realize : they've never played games like this on their tablets.

What they need to tackle is getting the story across of how the gameplay will be unlike anything you've had before. "asymmetrical gameplay" is a fun scientifically accurate phrase, but it doesn't put an image in your mind. and reporters keep mistyping it as asychronous. and some existing games (left4dead) already offer asymmetrical gameplay. eh.
I think they should've offered several discrete phrases to get across the concept that there are several unique experiences possible. "second screen" viewing is already in use, and suggests secondary enhancements (like trivia about tv shows). I'd suggest "change over" gameplay for things like ZombiU, where you refocus completely on the tablet. and "touch strategy" for RTS games like pikmin and TheWonderful101. And "level builder" gameplay for adding elements to the environment, ala Mario and Rayman. maybe "styling stylus" for painting and drawing. maybe "room window" for peering in the game around outside the TV.

they have all these awesome new gameplay possibilities, but gamers seem to be very "ho hum wha?"

* As Penny Arcade pointed out, they desperately need a game that conveys the dungeons and dragons gameplay concept. ("5 gamers, 1 pad")

Jonathan Jennings
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I'm waiting for The legend of zelda : FourSwords WIIU presonally

Jonathan Jennings
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I'm waiting for The legend of zelda : FourSwords WIIU personally

Roy Rottschafer
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No offence, but how'd you figure Left4Dead has asymmetric gameplay?
I could agree that it has [i]asynchronous[/i] gameplay because of the variety in opponents, but then again you will also find that in lots of other games.
The term asymmetrical in Nintendo's eyes is probably something entirely different from what you mean and obviously more geared towards the different control methods, i.e. the Wii U Gamepad vs the standard Wiimote/nunchuck. A method which of course, the other consoles do not offer...

John Flush
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@Jonathan - The problem is they could have made that game already. the Pad doesn't provide any value for a game like that. The Wii U was built for one vs. others. Otherwise we would have had streaming to multiple pads or to the 3DS and the Wii U acts as a server. Instead, we got the Wii U... Most of the interesting gaming ideas died once I learned it was 1 (or at best 2) pads per Wii U.

Joe McGinn
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Goof analysis Warren. The messaging around Wii U continues to be so scattershot and confused, I've become convince Nintendo itself doesn't know what the thing is good for.

It's going to be a very, very tough sell.

warren blyth
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@Roy Rottschafer: whoa there. asynchronous means not synchronized. it concerns time. in gaming it usually means I take a turn, and then sometime later you take a turn. it is a mistake to describg l4d or wiiU with this term. (and just like reporters, i suspect you accidentally typed it.)

asymmetrical mean unbalanced. l4d championed this through their verses mode. instead of each team having basically the same options (which was the standard set by Battlefield), left4 dead let you compete with two teams who did totally different things. (the survivors had no gun or melee attack that was comparable to the spitter's tongue drag).

Jeffrey Williams
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The main point of the Wii U is to sap away from the PS3 and 360, so developers would also make their games for the wii. They don't need to focus on the causal crowd, because they already got them locked in (You already have a Wii? you can upgrade and your old controllers will work).

I think this puts Sony and Microsoft in an interesting pickle, with them launching a new system, will a price job really work. If you didn't already have a PS3 or a 360, would a price drop really help.. It would just means you already thought 300 was too much for a system.

The presentation was for hardcore gamers.. advertisement will get the rest during the holiday

Rob B
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'because they already got them locked in'
They mention the hardcore gamer more, and are making a concerted effort in services precisely because the casual profits are so transient. Nintendo at the peak of the Wii release was worth four times as much as it is now and until the Wii U came on the scene they were still crashing hard. In stark comparison Microsofts division was making more profit as recently as last year than they had ever done before. MS and Sony would be idiots if they underestimated Nintendo but I dont think they are in a pickle just yet.

The Wii was a risky but fantastic move for Nintendo who were seriously lagging at the time, but its not sustainable to keep appealing to such a whimsical market. It seems to me that they are now trying to create a more concrete future for the company. Whether it will work or not will be interesting to see.

Jonathan Murphy
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So almost half the cost of the console is the controller? I'm getting a PS3 cell processor Dejavu here.

Scott Mullins
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"Personally, I hope we don't see individual GamePad sales in the U.S. soon (though it appears they will be available in Japan). There are no games that take advantage of them now, and there won't be for a long while."

Do you have children? Young children? Do you remember people throwing Wii Remotes? This isn't your typical controller with just buttons, but with a touch screen on it. I'm guessing the failure rate is going to be higher than your regular controller, just because of the added electronics to it. I would hope Nintendo has extra GamePads day one. Accidents do happen, so it would be stupid (IMO) to not have an replacement controller ready. Sure, they don't have to have TONS of them like the Wii Remotes, but 1 for every 10-20 consoles made seems like a decent rate, maybe even less.

"Teasers aside, it primarily announced a whole bunch of titles in the launch window that Xbox and PlayStation gamers are already prepared for." They didn't really announce much new for it, other than the Activision games...but here is a list of the "exclusives" so far from my count at launch:
1) New Super Mario Bros. U
2) ZombiU
3) Rayman Legends
4) Sing Party
5) Scribblenauts Unlimited
6) Tank! Tank! Tank!
7) The Wonderful 101
8) Rabbids Land
9) LEGO City: Undercover

kevin williams
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It's the elephant in the room - the whole 'look down' at the tablet while playing has 'played' poorly on test and looks like it dose not add, but detracts, from the majority of games using this element (see ZombiU video) - also the inability for a second tablet to be added without some performance impact was a shocker and hidden in secrecy, executives actively ignoring second Gamepad questions!

Fundamentally, Nintendo are laying on the heavy pressure to ensure that the Wii-U is received the way they want it too (with the help of the ugly face of the Nintendo fan-boys)! Would not be surprised if an official statement is released about the frame -rate issues seen on a number of games at the launch - and the avoidance of multi-play demos!

Could we be looking at a accelerated release plan, as a means to get the system out there and establish the DLC avenue, before the serious issues got too much airtime? The medias avoidance of dealing on the core issues of the subscription model and the 'constantly connected' machine shocking omissions!

No matter the pressure from PR representatives, no sugar coating will hide this dose look a lackluster and badly managed and led launch - Nintendo JP will have to consider restructuring to be able to move forward, or be left seriously behind!

wes bogdan
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If smash had 4 tablet play rather than ringing out your character could drop to the tablet and try to get back up to the hdtv or mario kart you could have a rear view and see what /who was coming your way and even launch weapons etc from it...but only if a 4 tablet wii u were possible.

If kids fight over who gets a window or who gets to sit by the door in a car you can bet they'll fight over who has the tabletpad.

wes bogdan
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Something i'd like to see is a ds /3ds pass through using the wii u,tabletpad and nice would it be to be able to continue playing handheld games on the hdtv....with 2 screens and 1 being touch it's possible.