Nintendo Wii U gets a price, release date

September 13, 2012

The Nintendo Wii U will be coming to the U.S. on Nov. 18, just in time for the holiday shopping season.

The console will start $299, with a deluxe model for $349 — which could be a hard selling point for Nintendo as it tries to replicate its success with the Wii.

The company is in a tough place in the video market, trying to fight mobile gaming threats from Apple and Android while also courting more serious gamers who’ve moved in droves to Sony and Microsoft.

Nintendo has a reputation for being aimed at more casual gamers, especially after launching the family-friendly Wii, which saw success with family-oriented games such as Wii Fit and Wii Sports.

At an event in New York City, Nintendo America president Reggie Fils-Aime showed off a variety of features meant to keep the Wii U at the center of the living room, touting its “Nintendo TVii” service that will let users centralize their video services, including Hulu and Netflix. The tablet-like GamePad controller — which users can use as stand-alone playing platform — will also be able to act as a television remote. The service runs up against Microsoft’s Xbox Live service, which the company announced over the summer will eventually be accessible on almost any tablet via an app.

The Wii U will be able to support two of the tablet controllers, as well as four Wii remotes. One GamePad will be included in the box, the company said.

The company’s Wii was overdue for a refresh. Launched in 2006, the system’s graphics were noticeably lagging behind the market, even alongside the PlayStation 3, which launched the same year and the Xbox 360, which launched in 2005 but got a refresh in 2010.

The $299 price puts the new console in line with the lowest prices for those aging consoles, but may still be too high for Nintendo to make a compelling pitch to consumers who are increasingly gaming on mobile devices. What will make or break the console is its games — and how willing game developers are to embrace the new design.

Nintendo officials said there would be 50 titles for the console by next March, though many of the titles are ported from Sony and Microsoft’s consoles. Others, such as Assassin’s Creed III, will launch first on those consoles before debuting with the Wii U. It’s still a large amount of titles, and Fils-Aime called the launch line-up the “strongest for any Nintendo home platform in our history.”

Related stories:

E3 2012: Wii U aims to distinguish itself from the pack

E3 2012: Nintendo details Wii U, focuses on third-party games

E3 2012: Ahead of Wii U’s big day, is motion gaming losing its mojo?

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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