By Mike Snider, USA TODAY
Nintendo plans to jumpstart its holiday sales with the Nov. 18 release of its new Wii U high-definition video game console. Retailers have begun taking pre-orders for the system.
Buyers will be able to choose between two Wii U models:
-- A basic 8-Gigabyte white model ($299.99) with one wireless motion-sensitive GamePad tablet controller, AC adapter, HDMI cable and sensor bar.
-- A 32 GB deluxe black model ($349.99) with GamePad and charging cradle, stand and Nintendo Land game.
The Wii U systems also will include a new built-in Nintendo TVii service that consolidates a household's TV programming options onto the GamePad's 6.2-inch touchscreen display.
"For us, it was a natural extension of what we have seen with our relationship with Netflix," says Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America president . "Having the integrated second screen really created the opportunity for us to disrupt this entertainment space the way we've disrupted the gaming space."
Nintendo expects to have 50 games including New Super Mario Bros. U and Wii Fit U available between the system's Nov. 18 launch and the end of March 2013.
The new Wii U pairs a more powerful high-definition console system with the new GamePad controller, which sports two joysticks and traditional buttons, along with a built-in gyroscope, accelerometer and camera.
"I think Nintendo just took a giant leap forward on innovation," says Paul Raines, CEO of video game retail chain GameStop. "No one has a tablet that plays with a controller. No one had high definition and backwards compatibility with old Nintendo titles. That is pretty exciting stuff."
With its dual-pronged pricing, Nintendo has hit a $299 price point "that won't scare people," says Analyst P.J. McNealy of Digital World Research. However, the game company will need to "clearly explain the value proposition" of the $349 model to consumers, he says.
The Wii U launch should help kickstart lagging sales of video game systems and games, he says. The $17 billion console game industry has seen nine straight months of sales declines, according to market tracking firm The NPD Group. "The excitement around new consoles, starting with the Wii U, is only going to get louder and bigger," he says
Nintendo has sold 96 million units of the Wii U's predecessor since its debut in 2006. While its video quality did not match that of high-def competitors PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, the Wii was the first to truly bring motion gaming to consoles. Since then, the Xbox 360 and PS3 have added motion controllers. "Think about 2006, the Wii sold out for three holiday seasons in a row," McNealy says. "I can easily see that happening again for this holiday."
Fils-Aime announced the Wii U's price and availability during a media event broadcast online Thursday. As part of the presentation, Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg took the stage and announced that several of Activision's games will be coming to Wii U.
Its mega-hit franchise Call of Duty: Black Ops II will let two play the game cooperatively or competitively with one using the GamePad and another watching on the TV screen. "The Wii U really has stepped it up into a different paradigm," he says.