Back at E3 2011 Nintendo announced their Wii successor, the Wii U, to predominantly skeptical responses from industry insiders and game fans alike. The last nine months haven’t done much to help the upcoming console’s momentum either – with developers, analysts, and hard core gamers, all weighing-in on Nintendo’s new system.
While the Wii U tech specs are still tightly under wraps, as more and more info leaks (and more and more developers get their hands-on the console), a picture of what gamers can expect is starting to finally take shape: a, unsurprisingly, Wii-like device that’s not likely to wow hardcore gamers (who are already anticipating the PS4 and Xbox 720) and will, despite claims to the contrary, offer middle-of-the-road graphics but “innovative” gameplay for the casual audience – gameplay that, according to a new report, they’ll have to pay over $300 to bring home.
Previously, we heard rumors that the Wii U would launch at $299 but this new price tag speculation is derived from a Forget the Box interview that detailed the cost of various Wii U component parts (for a combined total of $180 per console) – as well as lays-out Nintendo’s investor strategy for the device:
Cutting production costs to maximize profits is Nintendo’s main concern with the Wii U. They are cutting costs in the Wii U’s hardware to build back confidence in investors. Nintendo wants investors to view Wii U as a less risky proposition.
Nintendo chose an economical GPU and CPU that could keep up with the performance of today’s current consoles, but keep hardware costs down to maximize profits. Nintendo got a bargain price on the custom GPU and CPU that the Wii U uses. There is a bigger focus on downloadable content, applications, video content, digital distribution, and services to create a stream of revenue. Investors will be ecstatic with the news.
As mentioned earlier, it’s becoming increasingly clear that – in spite of what Nintendo (and some developers) might be saying – the line an “economical GPU and CPU that could keep up with the performance of today’s current consoles” isn’t likely to inspire a lot of hardcore confidence. Instead of attempting to position their upcoming console alongside the next generation, which most industry analysts expect to be announced in 2013, Nintendo is still playing catch-up – investing in their “inventive” new Wii U controller instead of “comparable” next generation console hardware.
In addition to detailing the Wii U console tech, Forget the Box also laid-out the prices of key Wii U controller components – resulting in an, as mentioned, overall production costs of $180 per console/controller package and, subsequently, a launch retail price that is likely at (or above) the $300 mark:
The cameras in the Wii U controller are an estimated manufacturing cost of $6. They are slightly better quality than the 3DS and DSi cameras. The touch screen has a manufacturing cost estimated at $14.
It’s not surprising, given the phenomenal success of the Wii, that Nintendo is once again going to try and focus on casual gamers (who aren’t looking for flashy tech) - especially after disappointing launch sales of the 3DS (which featured a, comparatively, higher price point). There’s no doubt that parents (and even some bemoaning hardcore gamers) will snatch the console up; that said, a big component of the Wii success story was non-gamers (aging thirty-somethings and retirees) who picked-up the console – due to its party-game appeal as well as recreational “benefits.” However, it’s likely that many of these buyers aren’t going to be very interested in upgrading – since many of them haven’t supported the current model after their initial purchase (i.e. they haven’t been buying new software).
As a result, it’ll be interesting to see if the audience Nintendo is banking-on is actually eager for a new console this holiday season. The Wii U may present a low risk for investors but, without the non-gamers (as well as early hardcore adopters) that made the Wii a household name, it’s equally possible that stockholders won’t just see a low return on that investment, they’ll all bear witness to Nintendo’s biggest miscalculation yet (well, next to the Virtual Boy – that one is hard to top).
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on the Wii U.
Wii U is scheduled for a Holiday 2012 release.