Given that there are just a few short months before Wii U launches this holiday, it’s surprising how many unanswered questions we have about Wii U. Launch price, release date, and the final initial lineup are a given – these things can only really be solidly set by examining a number of factors close to release – but others, like specific details about online functionality, Miiverse account system, and the console’s eShop have been lingering on players’ minds since before Wii U was even announced.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest question marks that still remain as fall comes into view.
How much will Wii U cost?
Nintendo hardware has historically known for being pretty darn affordable, (3DS is kind of a blemish on this record, admittedly), and President Satoru Iwata has promised that this tradition will continue with Wii U – but hasn’t yet announced the price. He’s given some clues, however.
Citing the early price cuts for 3DS, he admits that for Wii U the price point is going to be “one of the most important elements at launch.” And since Wii U is set to launch in a “different environment than when the Wii was launched” from an economic standpoint, nailing the price is going to mean setting it low enough to be accessible to Nintendo’s biggest demographic: family consumers.
When will it go on sale?
For Nintendo fans, often the biggest initial question when a big new announcement is made is “when will I be able to buy it?” Unfortunately, a straight answer doesn’t usually come until a couple months before the product’s launch date.
The timing of major product release dates requires a solid strategy for generating as much energy moving into launch as possible. That’s why in recent years we’ve seen so much attention given to the holiday shopping season, and specifically Black Friday – it’s one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and thus the best time to put your product at the center of the stage.
Deciding on a good timing to maximize momentum is just part of the fight, however. Nintendo also has to think about how to increase Wii U’s visibility among potential buyers, how many units they’ll be able to manufacture in order to meet their targets, and how to compete with other products going on sale at around the same time.
We’ll definitely hear about the release date and price before the end of September, but in the meantime rumors and speculation are sure to run rampant, because for many who are already convinced that Wii U is for them, price and date are the biggest variables.
What else comes bundled with Wii U?
So far, the only things we know we’ll be getting with Wii U are the system itself, the Wii U GamePad, a Wii Sensor Bar, and the various cables and connectors you need to hook it up to your TV. In the past, however, Nintendo systems have often offered more. The standard Control Deck set for NES came with two controllers, and a slightly more expensive bundle added Super Mario Bros. Super NES came with Super Mario World; Wii Sports was for many years a Wii pack-in.
Will Wii U come with any games? Nintendo Land seems like the obvious candidate, since Nintendo’s heralding it as Wii U’s trademark IP in much the same way that Wii Sports was the icon of Wii. New Super Mario Bros. U is another possibility – Nintendo knows the selling power of the franchise, and is likely to leverage it heavily at launch.
For both games, however, multiplayer is a key feature, which means that to get the most out of them you’ll need at least two controllers. If Nintendo does include either of these as pack-in games, will they include a Wii Remote Plus with the system as well? Or are they going to bet on most early adopters already owning a Wii Remote or two thanks to Wii’s immense popularity?
How much will Wii U games cost?
For publishers and developers, the price of Wii U games may seem like a no-brainer. “They need to cost $60, the same as Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games. This is the cost for AAA entertainment, after all, and Wii U wants to offer AAA entertainment, does it not?”
But for Nintendo’s family demographic the story might be very different. It’s no secret that the average person has less disposable income now than six years ago. Offering Wii U games for $50 instead might actually give games – especially multi-platform games which will then cost more for those other consoles – a bit of an edge on the system. Never underestimate the power of offering your customers a better value for their hard-earned dollars.
What will be on the eShop at launch?
Nintendo has insisted that Wii U’s eShop will be available at launch, but that doesn’t tell us anything about the content that’s going to appear. We know that it is possible for retail games to be distributed digitally, and that the Wii U eShop will have its own version of WiiWare games, but we don’t yet know whether the old Wii Virtual Console and WiiWare games will be available through the service at or even after launch.
The online games store was a critical player in offering Wii customers additional content during new game droughts. Nintendo’s legacy catalog is one of the richest in gaming, and giving Wii U owners the option to expand their library of older titles is another big potential selling point for the system – especially if they’ll be able to play those games free of the TV using the GamePad.
How will the Miiverse account system work?
So far we know only a little bit about Wii U’s account system: it’ll be based on Miis, optimized for the preferences of each user, and up to 12 accounts can be stored on a Wii U system at a time. Similarly, we know that Miiverse will be a social networking feature that allows players to communicate via text and hand-written messages, video chat, congregate around game-specific communities, and share information within individual games. Everything else, however, is a big question mark.
Will digital games be account-based? Nintendo has suggested that this is the case in the past, but has not yet officially confirmed it. Tying download titles to a user account means that they can potentially be brought over to a friend’s house to play, unlike the current system which locks games onto the system for which they were purchased. I wouldn’t expect Nintendo to allow for easy re-copying and transfer of games to avoid piracy issues, but it’s probably possible to give players the option to log into their account on a friend’s console.
How can multiple accounts on the same system interact with one another? If the games are account-based, will I be able to freely share them with other accounts created on my system? Is there any way for two accounts to multi-task, with one using the TV and the other using the Wii U GamePad? What privacy settings will be available?
How much freedom will Miiverse users have? Can I completely block all in-game features so that my game experience is as uninterrupted as possible? Can I copy and paste links from my web browser to share them with my friends? Can I create my own personalized Miiverse community? (e.g., Will I be able to create a “GenGAME” chat on Miiverse, or am I limited to those communities that Nintendo creates?)
Nailing both the account functionality and Miiverse community features is going to be critical if Nintendo wants Wii U to be the biggest hub for communication between users.
Are there any big launch games that haven’t been announced yet?
GameTrailers’ Shane Satterfield noted that a big Wii U game that he saw teased before E3 wasn’t announced at the show, and might make it in time for launch. Will we hear more about this game at the fall announcement event? And will this game be the new killer app Nintendo fans have been clamoring for?
After all, at the end of the day, it’s the games that matter.