A listing on EB Games’ Australian website has Nintendo’s unreleased next generation console, the Wii U, priced at 598 Australian Dollars (just over 599 USD). Nintendo stated a little while back that the console would be in “final form” at E3 201 in June, so we’re still a long ways off from its release. In fact, most of the staff here at MTB believes it will not launch until some point in the fall of next year. That means that even if this price is based off of information from Nintendo – which itself is far from being a certainty – that it could easily change between now and the U’s eventual release.
Since this is the only “information” we have to rely on at this time, however, we’re not going to let a little thing like that stop us from doing a little speculating. It was also pointed out by Aussie commenters on Attack of the Fanboy that residents of the country have historically been forced to pay a premium in order to obtain the same hardware we get in North America for far cheaper. Yet, as has already been pointed out, it is too early to safely assume anything at this point. Surely not even the men on the top floor at Nintendo headquarters in Japan currently know the final details of the console’s launch and associated price point.
Let’s just go ahead and assume for argument’s sake that $600 is going to be the price. Nintendo entering into the same pricing echelon as this gen’s HD platforms would be a serious shift in strategy. Remember that the console’s predecessor, the Wii, was sold for the bargain bin price of $249.99 here in the States when it launched in November of 2006. Two-hundred and fifty greenbacks might not exactly sound cheap to everyone, but it looks pretty good compared to the PS3’s launch SKUs being priced at $499.99/$599.99 and the Xbox 360’s two initial models launching at $299.99/$399.99.
That being said, prices typically rise from generation to generation. Inflation and constantly rising manufacturer costs associated with pushing the graphical envelope – despite what many perceive as diminishing returns – tend to make that happen. Still, that price seems high for a console that is supposedly only moderately more powerful than the Xbox 360 and PS3. Its precise technological capabilities have not been made public but everything we’ve heard makes it sound like Nintendo will once again release a console that lacks the horsepower of the competition (Xbox Loop/720 and PS4).
Also keep in mind that Shigeru Miyamoto told GameSpot in June that the company is “very sensitive to pricing because people have generally only a certain amount of their spending that they’ll devote to entertainment. And if you’re talking about parents buying something for kids, there are certain price points where parents may be willing to or not willing to purchase a certain product.”
He would go on to state that it is still necessary to carefully consider the tech options that are out there at the time a console is hitting the market, and that the Big N must walk a tightrope between satisfying the graphically-obsessed core gamer and the budget-conscience casual player. Finally, he added that he couldn’t make assertions that the Wii U is “going to necessarily dramatically outperform the systems that are out now. It’s part of the balance that we strike in terms of trying to find entertainment that is new and unique.”
Raw power notwithstanding, there is also the little matter of those shiny tablet controllers. Nintendo has been in the touchscreen biz since the DS came out in 2004; but the U’s screen is larger, has a higher resolution, and is only one component of the spiffy new controllers. That’s all true, but this is still a console with a fancy new controller that is probably being built on modern supercharged versions of tech that is akin to what went into its predecessor. Sounds an awful lot like another console we know, doesn’t it?
Rumors from more “inside sources” than we care to count have Nintendo’s competition releasing their own next-gen consoles in either 2012 or 2013. (Sony themselves even came right out and said that they have no desire to be late to the party.) With what will almost assuredly be far more technically advanced hardware hitting right alongside or shortly after the Wii U, can Nintendo afford to price its next platform at a premium point? Based on what little we have to go on at this juncture in time, the answer is “probably not.”
That’s why you shouldn’t get too worked up over sticker shock just yet. Perhaps Nintendo will shock us all at E3 and show off games that will have tehcnophiles excited, but that’s unlikely. Barring such a scenario, I don’t see how Nintendo can get away with pricing the Wii U even in the neighborhood of $600. For now, expect a price more in the $300-$400 range and don’t be surprised when Nintendo’s E3 2012 press conference doesn’t do anything to convince anybody otherwise.