Exactly what will and won’t be included with the Nintendo Wii U at retail is no longer a mystery, nor is the console’s price. Ranging from $299-349 depending on features (and color), the new system will be bringing novelty and some potentially promising new features, on top of games.
Anyone who watched the full unveiling by Nintendo this week is already aware of the company’s desire to become more of a household media hub than simple gaming center. But according to Nintendo, those hoping to do some group gaming sessions with more than a single GamePad will have a long wait on their hands. Additional GamePads won’t be supported at launch, so won’t be sold individually either.
In all the explosive announcements (and not-so-explosive announcements) and functionality promised by Nintendo, those interested in the gameplay opportunities offered by the touchscreens of not just one, but two GamePads may have noticed a few missing bits of information. For starters, the cost of additional GamePads. With the pro controller confirmed at $49.99 for anyone desiring a more mainstream form of input device – since it isn’t included with the console itself – the cost of the GamePad itself could range anywhere from affordable to prohibitively expensive. Nintendo isn’t providing any information of potential pricing since they have no plans to sell GamePads at launch.
Their reasoning, as described to 1UP by Nintendo’s Bill Trinen, makes sense. But that doesn’t mean it will instill confidence in those still on the fence about the Wii U’s potential:
“You’re right, that wasn’t mentioned, and the reason we didn’t mention it is that, in the launch window titles, none of those are going to support dual GamePads. The launch window is all going to be single-GamePad. The dual-GamePad functionality, we expect to start seeing that in games sometime next year. Our feeling is, we’re not going to sell another GamePad if you don’t have something to use it with. We’ll make that available as an additional accessory when there’s content to support it.”
A price was given for the GamePad at the Japanese presser, but Trinen clarified that that didn’t mean Japanese games would be supporting the feature before North America:
“I don’t think that they’ve announced any that are. I think they’re just announcing that’s going to be the price when it eventually goes on sale. I don’t know that they announced a date for when it will be available.”
If there’s no use that players would get out of having a spare GamePad (aside from swapping them during charging) then selling them would surely lead to disappointment. But that sound logic doesn’t lessen the impression given that Nintendo doesn’t have a solid plan for implementing dual GamePad play. We know that Japanese prices have the cost of a GamePad sitting around $170 USD, and that operating two GamePads at once drops frame rates from 60fps to 30fps. Those are both significant obstacles to overcome in convincing players to pony up the extra money for added features that have yet to prove their worth. Nintendo may “expect” that some games will support more than one GamePad at a time, but for now that’s not a very convincing pitch.
Not that Nintendo needs to convince gamers that their console is worth buying – not Nintendo fans, anyway. But for those who would have taken a leap of faith were the console priced to aggressively gain footing in the…current-gen (?) market, the lack of specific dates and confirmations isn’t likely to seal the deal. With over fifty games confirmed for the Wii U’s launch window – spanning anywhere from November to March – and a frank admission that Nintendo is leaving dual GamePad support largely up to the developers themselves (first-party or not), it’s becoming clear just how differently Nintendo operates as opposed to its competition. There are just over two months left until the launch of the Wii U, meaing many had hoped that this week would have brought the concrete, compelling dates and price points to prove that the project had been thought out far more clearly prior to launch than the 3DS.
For now, the actual launch day comes with a handful of titles ready to play, and a GamePad capable of convincing skeptics as well as it may. The lack of any dual GamePad support is a bit disappointing, albeit fair, but does somewhat hinder the perception that Nintendo could count on innovation and gameplay in lieu of an expansive launch selection. Bayonetta 2 is sure to sell plenty of consoles to more ‘hardcore’ crowds, but Nintendo will need to rely on far more third-party developers to make their multi-platform plan work out in the end.
How do you interpret Nintendo’s statements? Were you hoping to see what gameplay was made possible by dueling GamePads, or is the lack of secondary support a non-issue? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.
Nintendo’s Wii U will be available on November 18, 2012.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.