After two disastrous E3 showings, Nintendo had a lot to prove with Thursday’s Wii U conference in New York City.  What will the price be?  When is it coming out?  What are the system’s online capabilities (if any)?  Most importantly, what games are coming out for the system?  Thankfully, Nintendo delivered definitive answers to most of these questions, finally putting on a show that might convince gamers to buy the Wii U when it launches.

Hold on a minute…when does the Wii U launch in North America?  Nintendo decided to get the important stuff out of the way immediately, opening the show by announcing a firm release date and prices for the Wii U.  The Wii U will release on November 18 in two bundles; the basic bundle will cost $299, while the deluxe bundle will cost $350.  The basic bundle comes with a white 8GB Wii U console, GamePad, AC adapter, HDMI cable, and sensor bar.  The $350 deluxe bundle comes with a black 32GB Wii U console/controller, everything else in the basic bundle, plus a cradle for the console, a stand for the controller, and a copy of NintendoLand.

I had predicted that the Wii U would cost $300-$350; what I didn’t predict is that it will cost both of those prices.  They’re not great prices, but I don’t think they’ll dissuade customers from purchasing the console.  They’re right about where Nintendo needed to be in terms of pricing.  Two things do worry me, though; pricing of Wii U GamePads and storage.  A Wii U GamePad comes with both bundles, but Nintendo didn’t disclose how much an additional GamePad will cost.  This is a bit alarming since the Wii U GamePad seems like it could be pretty pricey.  (It was later revealed that Nintendo will not even sell Wii U GamePads separately at launch in America.)  More worrying than that, though, is the Wii U’s storage capabilities.  When the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, the top “Pro” model had 20GB of storage.  That filled up extremely quickly.  The basic Wii U only has 8GB of storage, which makes it next to worthless.  The 32GB deluxe bundle is better, but still doesn’t have enough storage space for today’s HD games.  A few big game demos or add-ons will eat up those 32GB in no time.

With price and release date information out of the way, Nintendo continued its conference by announcing Wii TVii.  Mr. Fils-Aime revealed the name in a humorous way that had the crowd chuckling.  In essence, Wii TVii is similar to what Xbox Live allows gamers to do; watch TV shows from networks that have signed-on to provide content for the service, watch movies via Netflix and other apps, and watch sports.  Although NFL football and soccer weren’t shown, Wii TVii seems like a decent imitation of what Microsoft has done.  The Wii U GamePad should be a more natural controller for watching TVs and movies than an Xbox 360 controller, plus Wii TVii is completely free.

The biggest surprise of the conference came next, as Platinum Games revealed that Bayonetta 2 will be a Wii U exclusive published by Nintendo.  Platinum also showed off a trailer for the cleverly renamed The Wonderful 101 (formerly “Project P-100;” the extra ‘1’ in the title is for you, the player).  The Wii U certainly seems to be courting hardcore gamers and, although these two games likely won’t be huge hits or system sellers, they should be good games that will give Nintendo some of the hardcore cred it’s lost with the Wii.

The Wii U will launch in North America on November 18; the deluxe bundle shown here will cost $350.

Nintendo then chose to demo NintendoLand once again, this time with a lengthy demonstration of the game’s Metroid-inspired minigame.  This minigame sees two players–one in Samus’ ship, another on foot–blasting waves of alien foes from the Metroid games.  It looks like a fun diversion, but I don’t think it will have lasting replay value.  That’s my main concern with NintendoLand right now; the games look fun for a few minutes, but I can’t see anyone wanting to play them over and over.  Nintendo wants this to be the next Wii Sports, but I can’t see that happening–especially since Nintendo won’t be including NintendoLand with the $300 basic Wii U bundle.

A representative from mega-publisher Activision Blizzard then went onstage to show off…Skylanders Giants and 007 Legends in sizzle-reel form.  Wait, that wasn’t what anyone wanted to see!  But, wait a minute…Call of Duty:  Black Ops II is coming to the Wii U!  A live demo followed the announcement, showing a multiplayer match that featured the same level of graphical detail as the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game.  What’s more, Activision confirmed that Black Ops II on Wii U will feature everything found in the other console versions of the game, including a campaign and online multiplayer.  It’s hard to overstate how important this is for the Wii U–for the first time, a Nintendo console will get a full version of a Call of Duty game.  Gamers picking up a Wii U won’t have to give up their Call of Duty multiplayer obsession if they plan on making the Wii U their primary console of choice.  What’s more, we now know that the Wii U will have some form of online play, something Nintendo itself seems strangely reluctant to discuss.

Mr. Fils-Aime closed out the show by saying that Nintendo doesn’t know what games will be available on launch day–outside of New Super Mario Bros. U and NintendoLand–and that the Wii U’s launch window extends to March 2013 (um, no Nintendo, it doesn’t).  And hey, what’s a press conference without a little hyperbole, right?  “The Wii U will have the best launch lineup in Nintendo history,” exaggerated Mr. Fils-Aime.  With that, Nintendo closed the conference with a sizzle reel of upcoming Wii U games.

Nintendo answered a lot of lingering questions about the Wii U and even had a few pleasant surprises in store.  Some concerns still remain–what will the Wii U’s online service be like?  What games will be available on day one?  Where are the key Nintendo franchises outside of New Super Mario Bros. U and NintendoLand?  Despite all that, though, the overall feeling I got from the conference was positive.  This is the type of conference Nintendo needed to have at E3.  Oh well; better late than never, right?

 

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