Nintendo Wii to hit stores Nov. 19
New video game machine to retail for half the price of competitors
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Nintendo's new video game machine - dubbed Wii - will cost just $250 when it goes on sale Nov. 19 in North America, making it by far the least expensive of the next-generation systems.
The Wii - which will feature a wandlike controller - will be the last of the next-generation of consoles to hit store shelves but only by two days. Sony's (Charts) PlayStation 3 goes on sale Nov. 17 for $499 and $599, and Microsoft's (Charts) Xbox 360 became available last year for $299 and $399.
The system will have an extensive game catalog in its so-called launch window (the first few months after the hardware is released), with roughly 30 games available. It expects half of those, including a new entry in the "Zelda" franchise, to be on store shelves the same day the Wii is released.
Games will cost $50, which is standard pricing for titles for current systems but $10 less than what many games for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 cost. One game - "Wii Sports," a compilation of tennis, golf, baseball, bowling and boxing - will come included with the system to demonstrate its abilities.
The Wii will ship with one controller and one secondary controller (dubbed the 'nunchuck') for more advanced games. Additional controllers will be sold separately for $40. (Additional nunchucks will sell separately for $20.)
Nintendo (Charts) said it plans to ship 4 million units worldwide this year, which, if achieved, should help ease supply troubles. (Sony, by comparison, will only ship 2 million PlayStation 3s this year.) New video game systems almost always sell out at launch, as enthusiasts quickly snatch them up.
The Wii, however, is not aimed squarely at enthusiasts. Nintendo has said repeatedly it hopes to bring in a wider audience with the system.
"The next step in gaming is bringing gaming back to the masses ... appealing to current gamers as well as to people who do not consider themselves in the gaming industry," said Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America.
Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets, said in a note to investors he expected Nintendo to quickly sell through its initial shipments of the Wii. He also expects the system to help Nintendo regain ground in the video game industry.
"We continue to believe that Nintendo has a very good opportunity to gain market share in the new cycle with a lower-priced console and unique game-play," he wrote. "We also note that Nintendo is receiving solid support from third-party game publishers, including titles designed specifically for the Wii, such as Tony Hawk Downhill Jam (Activision (Charts)), Madden NFL 07 (Electronic Arts (Charts)) and Red Steel (UbiSoft)."
The Wii controller is specifically designed to be more accessible to nongamers, resembling a remote control, rather than the button-heavy, dual-thumbstick controllers that have become the standard in gaming systems.
Wrist and arm actions translate directly to onscreen action with the Wii controller. In the "Wii Sports" tennis game, for example, users simply swing their arm in the living room, and their onscreen character will do so as well. If you're playing a shooting game, you simply aim and fire.
In addition to Wii-specific games, Nintendo's new video game machine will also offer users access to the company's extensive collection of games for previous Nintendo and other systems. Called the virtual console, this feature will allow users to download games over the Internet. Nintendo said pricing for older games will range from $5 to $10.
Thirty classic games will be available on the virtual console by year's end. Nintendo said it expects to add 10 games per month next year. To purchase games, users will need to buy a $20 gift card at retail.
Nintendo's decision to focus on game play did come with a cost: The graphical power of the Wii is far below what users have seen on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Onscreen images are roughly on par with the GameCube. The company said it feels users will not be dissuaded by the less impressive graphics.
"If you want power you're going to go somewhere else," said Fils-Aime.
In a further move to attract a broad audience, the system will also come with an intuitive news and weather channel, a photo-viewing channel and Web-surfing capabilities. Users will further be able to send messages and photos to other Internet-connected Wii users, PCs and cell phones. All will be done through the game controller.
"Wii channels [the official name for the above features] are designed to offer ease of functionality for everyone in the household," said Fils-Aime.