By November 15, 2006

Wii won’t be in line on the 19th

Well, it’s official: I won’t be waiting for the Nintendo Wii on the 19th. After the disappointing news in September about accessory and game prices, the hands on Wii demo videos from Gamespot staff, and finally write ups like this one from folks who played demo units, I’ve gone from “gotta have it on launch day” to “maybe I’ll buy an Xbox 360 first.”

My decision process has been a slow demoralization. Similar to staying at your folks’ house for the holidays. Maybe nothing big happens; Aunt Betty holds her liquor better this year, and no one breaks out the Trauma Doll so you can show everyone where Father Graham touched you. But tiny bit by bit, the whole affair brings you down. Here are the stones and darts that brought down my next-gen giant.

  • Game prices. The cost of first-party Wii titles is too high for games that don’t look as good as their competitions. I know, I know, the GameCube’s “fun over form” mantra worked pretty well. However, the difference in video quality between an Xbox 360 game and the Wii’s launch titles widens the visual gap too far for me. Especially when the Wii’s launch titles (such as ExciteTruck, one of the titles I was interested in) is only $10 less than Gears of War, considered an extremely well-rounded game for visuals and gameplay.
  • Virtual console prices. There was a rush of excitement when Nintendo announced that many games available on older platforms (Nintendo or otherwise) would be available for download on the Wii. Hopes that this would be a free or pay-by-month service dwindled and Nintendo announced the following price structure: $5 per NES game, $8 per SNES game, $10 per N64 game, $8 per Genesis game, and $6 per TurboGrafx-16 game. Which is $3, $6, $8, $6, and $4 too much for each class, respectively. That’s right. Each title should have been $1.99. $1.99 puts each title in the realm of impulse buy. Even $5 per title would make me think twice before downloading Contra to see if it is as fun now as it was when I was twelve. $10 for an N64 game, a console that I missed entirely (PC gaming, no disrespect to the N64)? No thanks. Why in the hell would anyone pay $5 to download the original Super Mario Brothers when it can be played (albeit illegally) for free via PC emulation?
  • Touchy controls. Part of the Wii’s competitive advantage over the Xbox 360 and the PS3 is the motion sensor controls. I was nervous about the controls being oversensitive when I heard about this, and I got PowerGlove flashbacks. When caught up in the heat of a good game, I tense my hands, maybe shift my shoulders around, sometimes even move the controller subconsciously. All of this results in false feedback for the Wii’s controller, which is expecting your hands to provide calm, steady feedback. Reports from people who have racked up time on the Wii (Martin Gordon and the Gamespot staff for example) indicate that the controls range from “too sensitive” to “omg I am spinning uncontrollably.” I believe that older generations of gamers, the ones doing these reports, are so used to non-motion sensitive controllers that the transition will be arduous. Or at least, a pain in the ass.
  • Accessory prices. For me, this was a big nail in the launch day coffin. An extra Wiimote + “Nunchuk” controller is probably going to cost between $50 and $60. Given that I have three aftermarket controllers for my GameCube, that adds an instant $150 – $180 to the Wii console’s “cheap” $250 price tag. Throw in an HD AV cable for $50, a 2GB SD card at $30, and we’re up to over $500 for the console, accessories, shipping, and tax. Add in ExciteTruck and you’re at $550. That’s two-thirds the cost of the RAID 5 server I want to build, of which I’ll get more use.

Which is the main reason I won’t be getting a Wii at launch day: cost. When I balance the Wii’s setup cost against the things I don’t like about the system, I am compelled to think, “how much would I really play this thing?” It’s the antithesis to the model that Nintendo employed so well with their Nintendo DS: make the system and the games affordable. While I don’t expect the Wii and its games to be $150 and $20-$40 respectively, I do expect Nintendo to realize they are fighting a desperate war against Microsoft and the multifaceted Xbox 360. Sure, the 360 costs more, but you get stronger graphics, multimedia support, a dense online game store that mixes free, demo, and for-pay games by smalltime publishers, and an easy to use online gaming matchmaking system.

I don’t think the Wii is cheap enough to warrant an impulse buy from other current-gen console owners, nor will it be a quick decision for Nintendo’s spoken marketing target: non-gaming families. $600 or so is a lot of money for a family new to spending that kind of cash on console or PC gaming. If Nintendo is betting on the Wii to replace tabletop family game playing, a lot of improvements need to be made on the pricing structure before that $10 Chinese checkers game gets put aside.

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5 Comments on "Wii won’t be in line on the 19th"

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  1. roclar says:

    I have no intention of buying one of these guys until Q1/07 either. Still I think its slightly unfair to knock the Wii for its extra controller price when its only $10 more per controller then extra 360 controllers at least the wireless variety. When I get my Wii I only plan on having the one controller on hand anyway as most if not all the other folks that would also play on the this plan on buying a Wii of their own and will be able to bring their own controller over.

    At least with the DS, Nintendo seems the best suited for me. Post-MMO, I have spent more time playing the older simpler games from my childhood then trying to pick up the newer more complex though visually more appealling stuff. The only new games I have gotten in the past year have been the DS versions of Mariokart and NSMB.

    All of that being said, the 360 and Gears of War in particular did seem pretty sweet when a couple of my friends were playing over at my place last week. Though, I had trouble handling the intensity of the game just watching, I didn’t even try to actually play it. Oblivion on the 360 was also visually impressive.

  2. drfaulken says:

    Very true, those other systems are much more expensive. However, the 360 and the PS3 are marketed as consoles for gamers. The Wii is not. It is a console for a broader audience. Nintendo’s marketing strategy (including the DS) is to encourage gaming by people of all ages and inclinations. I’m oversimplifying this next statement, but it’s good enough to be true: the Wii should replace board/card games of family game night.

    I believe that the startup cost for a family of three or four is too prohibitive to achieve this goal.

    Addressing Roclar’s comment about people bringing over their own controllers: also very true. Also very Gamer™-centric. I could see you and your dad enjoying a gesture-controlled Wii college football game, with your mother playing a Bowden team just to see him lose. 😉 That’s two extra controllers right there.

    I have three sets of Donkey Konga bongos sitting on my console rack that collect dust most of the time. I bongo by myself because I like the game, but the real fun is when friends and family come over. Not a one of them has a GameCube at home, including yourself. I think relying on others to bring a Wii controller isn’t a good enough defense to the high accessory price.

  3. RawCode says:

    If you use the same thought process for xbox 360 and PS3 you end to with $800-1000 systems plus accessories and a few games. So it is all relative. I will be buying a Wii, but I will also be buying the other consoles eventually after the prices drop in a couple years.

    I am excited that the Wii has made people think if graphics are all that important. It is nice to challenge standard conventions every once in awhile.

  4. Bond says:

    I think all the systems have a target audience and a ton to offer. My issue with the Wii is the current line-up, which is 2/3 cartoon/disney style games (personal taste). Of course this is coming from someone who just spent an hour in Gears of War slaying aliens via a chainsaw mounted on my assault rifle…Different systems for different markets.

    My other issue stems from worry that the controller, (the only next gen attribute), is really just an overpriced gimmick. Until I have it in my hand, it’s hard to be sure.

    The 360 titles arriving as of late have been terrific with even better titles on the way. Just checkout the video for Assassin’s Creed:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izR_k4bLC10

  5. albinoChimp says:

    Two things make it worth it to me. Zelda (twilight) and Mario (galaxy). Like Bond, I really like to rock the chain saw, but screenshots and gameplay videos of these two are very compelling to me. I got the Gamecube for the same reason: 1st party Nintendo games and GC only titles are some of the best around. If a game is released on multi-systems then I will probably buy the version that looks the best (360). I have all consoles so its hard for me to worry about backwards compatibility or virtual consoles. If I want to kick it old school, do some cross dressing bounty hunting like Samas in Metroid, I push the button on the NES. If I want some hedge hog spinning action, I fire up the Genesis. Golden Eye on the N64 was hella good too.

    Anyway, my take is if you have nice HDTV and you have the bones to get a 360 then do that, you wont regret it. Otherwise since I am a big Nintendo fan, I know I will get one as soon as I can.

    I went to Target this weekend but was 3 places in line from getting a console. I bought some games instead to take advantage of their $20 off launch day promotion.