Now that Nintendo's Wii U press conference is over and a lot of the details for the launch of the new current-generation console have been set, it's time to start planning for November 18, or not planning for November 18, depending on your point of view.
I’d like to go over the pros and cons of the Wii U system as we know them right now so you can decide for yourself whether you want to slap down $300+ to be an early adopter or you should just wait and see how it goes. It's a complex issue, people, so let's really dig into it.
Nintendo TVii. This little widget, which runs on the Wii U's gamepad screen until you want to actually watch something, brings together movies and TV shows listed on Hulu, Netflix and Amazon a lot like Bing on Xbox 360, but with more features. Here, you can look up, say, Modern Family (that was the example they used during the presser), and Nintendo TVii will show you where you can stream it, and, if you have a TiVo box, when you can watch it on TV or if you have it recorded. In addition, it taps into IMDB to allow you to look at cast lists and so on.
When you're actually watching something on your big screen, the gamepad will show you special features a la HBOGO for stuff that is supported by the system, and if your friends are using Nintendo TVii, there will be social features available as well.
None of this is really necessary, but it's cool, I guess.
Price. Let's go ahead and pretend the $299 version of the Wii U doesn't exist, because for just $50 more you get a charging cradle for your gamepad, two years of discounts on downloadable games from the eShop, more internal storage and a copy of Nintendo Land, which will likely be the game that gives you the most actual extra gameplay features that use the gamepad screen. I can't imagine why anyone would buy the basic set.
Anyway, $349 is high based on expectations for the Wii U's price but it's competitive with the Xbox 360 and PS3, and you get a game right out of the box. For a console that is on par, power-wise, with the current console and comes with a gamepad that has a 6.2" touchscreen on it, I find that price to be entirely reasonable, if a little high compared with what Nintendo usually charges for new consoles.
Launch lineup. The Wii U will have more than 50 games released for it within its launch window, including Nintendo platform exclusives Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Bros. U, ZombiU, WiiFit U, Pikmin 3, Lego City: Undercover, Transformers Prime and Funky Barn, and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is finally coming to the West on the Wii U. The list is bloated by titles that have already been released on other consoles, however. Still, the Wii U launch window will not be painful—or sparse—like that of the 3DS.
Core lineup. Sure, the Wii U will have many core games available on it during its launch window, such as Assassin's Creed III, Mass Effect 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Aliens: Colonial Marines, but there are not many games that will attract the core gamer that they can't get on the platforms they already own, and we haven't seen much that makes me think that using the second screen will enhance these multiplatform titles enough to make the Wii U versions a must-have.
As it stands now, the Wii U will have exactly one exclusive core game released in its launch lineup, which is the admittedly cool ZombiU. Yes, Nintendo announced today that Bayonetta 2 will be exclusive to the Wii U, but that is not coming out in the launch window. Even if Bayonetta is a big selling point for you, that doesn't mean you need to buy the console right away.
There is also the issue of staying power. The Wii U is decidedly a current-generation console being released at the end of this console cycle, and it's hard to imagine that games designed for the next generation of Xbox and PlayStation consoles will run on it. That doesn't matter for Nintendo titles and other exclusives, but it means that the lasting value of the Wii U to core gamers is seriously in question.
Hidden costs. The premium model of the Wii U will come with only 32gb or storage, which is a small amount in the era of 1.5gb game downloadable content. You can, however, add to your storage capacity by plugging in a USB hard drive, which means if you don't already have an unused HDD laying around, you'll need to shell out at least an extra $50 just to match the capacity of the Xbox 360.
Then there is the Wii Remote Plus problem. Neither Wii U SKU comes bundled with one, but if you want to play Nintendo Land with a friend, you'll need one. Reggie Fils-Aime acted during the presser like everybody who has a Wii already has one of these, but that's not true. A lot of folks still only have the basic Wii Remote. A Wii Remote Plus controller retails for $40 currently.
What it really comes down to is games, because the Nintendo TVii thing really isn't such a big deal that it warrants paying hundreds of dollars for this console. If you are interested in enough of the exclusive launch titles, then the purchase could be worthwhile, though. It probably is not worth it, however, if you only care about the multiplatform games, because they won't be given a big graphical upgrade on the new hardware, or at least that's what my eyes tell me.
The main problem with the Wii U as I see it is that it won't launch with a killer app. New Super Mario Bros. and Nintendo Land look nice, but I'm not sure those games can carry a console like Wii Sports did. But we'll see.
I could make a final recommendation here, but I want to leave it up to you. I say check out the launch lineup and determine if there is anything there you absolutely have to have on the Wii U, and make your decision from there.