Wii: Not quite so cheap, after all

Okay, let the next-gen video game wars begin. Nintendo’s Wii goes on sale November 19, two days after the PlayStation 3. And it’ll cost $250.

After all of Nintendo’s talk about a new paradigm and having everything under control (unlike the continually bumbling Sony), both of those numbers are a little surprising. They’ve emphasized how the Wii is giving up on the graphics arms race in favor of the unique motion-sensing controller, and how it’s not going to include a DVD player or anything else. So for a bare-bones console that from all accounts represents a fairly minor graphical upgrade over the GameCube, $250 — only $50 less than the graphics powerhouse Xbox 360 — seems like too much. I’m sure it’ll still do great, but $200 would have been more of a statement. And I’m not sure why Nintendo wouldn’t steal Sony’s thunder by launching earlier than the PlayStation 3. That doesn’t make any sense. Not a big deal, since PS3s will be impossible to get, and maybe I’m just impatient. But odd.

Other Wii details:
— It comes with Wii Sports packed in; that includes baseball, tennis, boxing, and bowling. Awesome to pack in a game, no question.

— You’ll need to shell out $60 for a second complete controller ($40 for the Wii remote thing and $20 for the “nunchuk” attachment). Very weak.

— A much narrower launch day lineup than expected. Only two other Nintendo titles will be out immediately: Zelda and Excite Truck. Zelda is a no-brainer blockbuster, but will Excite Truck be a gotta-have-it game? Games by other companies available at launch, according to GameSpot, will include Call of Duty 3, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, Need for Speed: Carbon, Madden 07, Elebits, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz, Rayman: Raving Rabbids, Splinter Cell: Double Agent. That’s a lot of games that are also available for other systems. Will the Wii controller make them all worth it? Given that the controller is the big draw of the system, it seems like Nintendo should have a few more games that specifially showcase the controller and the difference between the Wii and other systems. I’m looking forward to trying Call of Duty and Madden with the Wiimote, but I wish there was more unique stuff, like Trauma Center.

— You can download old-school games for $5 (NES), $8 (SNES) and $10 (Nintendo 64). Like with Microsoft’s Xbox Live, you buy a bunch of “points” and then use the points to download the games. So the games are technically 500, 800, and 1000 points each. Only a few old-school games will be available right away, with 30 available by year’s end and 10 a month added starting in January. This is probably the biggest disappointment. Old-school games — especially if they’re the original version and aren’t getting new graphics like Xbox Live Arcade games — just shouldn’t cost this much. They’ve long since made back their production costs, and many of us have bought them more than once for various systems. I mean, if you have the original Super Mario Bros. 3 cartridge, and bought the game again as Super Mario All Stars for Super Nintendo, and bought it a third time for GameBoy Advance, why on earth should you have to pay 5 bucks to buy it again?? And what about the dozens of old crappy games? Is Nintendo just not going to bother releasing them? Or will they release them after all the good games are out? If Nintendo doesn’t release everything, they’re missing out on the long tail and a huge opportunity to make money. If Nintendo does release it all but doesn’t experiment with pricing, nobody will buy the bad games and the long tail won’t kick in.

— September 14, 2006

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