Nintendo has finally unveiled crucial details about the upcoming Wii U launch. James Gardiner finds out what looks good and what needs work
One problem with Nintendo’s E3 showing back in June was that for as much as it did reveal about the upcoming Wii U, it left a lot of information out. Back then, the launch date was still unknown, as was the online infrastructure, full hardware specifications, and price. However, Nintendo’s recent reveal about price and release date has finally shed some light on the situation, and while they’re not great, they will likely carry the system through its launch pretty well.
For those who were already sold on purchasing a Wii U, the system has a decidedly solid line-up of launch titles. While a number of them are ports of games from earlier in the year (including Ninja Gaiden III, Mass Effect 3 and Darksiders 2), they all feature exclusive features and content, which, while not overly enticing to those who have already played them, could convince first-time consumers to purchase them on Wii U instead of on another system. More importantly, Assassin’s Creed III, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two will be available at launch, which is within a month of their release on other consoles.
However, none of these are true system sellers as they’re all available on other consoles. Rather, it’s the exclusives that will do that, and Wii U has a pretty good line-up of them. NintendoLand will likely serve the same purpose that Wii Sports did on the original Wii – that is, demonstrate the novelty of the controller to consumers who were otherwise disinterested or uninformed. Rayman Legends and ZombiU are both neat third-party titles that will also serve to demonstrate how the controller’s features translate directly into more traditional genres like platformers and shooters. Of course, all of these pale in launch importance to New Super Mario Bros U. While there hasn’t been the kind of buzz that usually surrounds the release of a Mario platformer, it marks the franchise’s first appearance in a launch line-up since the Nintendo 64, and is the most likely title to sell consoles in North America.
Yet even with a new Mario platformer coming, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate could be the most crucial launch title, at least in Japan. While it won’t be hitting US or EU stores until March, it will launch with the Wii U in Japan, both as a standalone title and a console pack-in. Nintendo could not have made a better move to ship consoles in Japan; Monster Hunter sells consistently well there, with the 3DS iteration arguably saving the fledging handheld. While it’s technically a second port of the Wii release, it’s hard to imagine the title not doing great numbers and leading a strong launch in the region.
Nevertheless, even with all the news on what titles the system will launch with, there still exists a question hanging over the whole affair: how will the online infrastructure work? There have been details along the way; the Miiverse unveiling at E3 seems like a neat idea, as well as the TVii streaming service and the ability to purchase Nintendo-published games digitally day-in-date with their retail counterparts. Yet despite these interesting revelations, there are still many questions left unanswered. Are friend codes still in place, and if not, what will replace them? What does the online store look like, and how does it work? Even though another press event fully detailing the online infrastructure seems inevitable, these kinds of questions are dangerous to leave unanswered this close to launch.
In terms of price, it’s good but not great, at least in the US. The deluxe kit, with 32GB HD, will sell for $35o, which isn’t an unreasonable launch price for a console, especially considering that comes with a controller and NintendoLand. However, it is a bit steep in light of the console’s hardware specifications, which are comparable to the 360 and PS3 but not particularly above them – a design decision that could hurt Nintendo in the long run. In the UK, the deluxe price of £300 is even steeper (a 360 currently costs £180 and comes with a 250GB HD while the new slimmer PS3 with 160GB will set you back around £185). In Europe, the deluxe will cost €350, which is better than in the UK but still not as good as in North America.
While Nintendo’s press event didn’t convince me to pre-order the Wii U, it left me far more optimistic about the system. While there are still many unknowns, and it’s impossible to say how it will fare once other next-generation consoles release, the pretty solid line-up should ensure a healthy launch, and the prospect of Bayonetta 2, a surprise exclusive, means that I’ll inevitably purchase one later down the line.
Follow James on Twitter: @Keltar93