"His voice betrayed a craving for terrible things." -- Don DeLillo

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September 14, 2006

Wii Learn the Details (With More Bad Puns!)
After months of stonewalling, Nintendo has finally blown out the last batch of Wii launch info. We've got a price, release date, interface details, and I've got opinions.

Honestly, I'm a little disappointed. The problem with Nintendo's ongoing information blackout is that we've filled it with loads of speculation and pipe dreams, pushing expectations even higher. Basically, with today's announcements, they shot a strong par when we were all thinking birdie or eagle (sorry, been watching too much Wii Sports footage).

First, the November 19th release date. While it's staying right in line with the Playstation 3 (which hits U.S. stores two days earlier), why not take the opportunity to put a foot on Sony's neck by releasing at least a week or two earlier? While the party line says that Nintendo isn't trying to compete against the PS3 and 360, perhaps they also figured they bought the extra time with Sony's announcement of the ridiculously low number of PS3 units that will be available at launch (something you could see coming from five miles away). As long as Nintendo can flood stores with the Wii, the lack of lead time shouldn't hurt much.

Next, the $250 price tag. I figured a $250 bundle was coming (here), but I overestimated how much that would get us. The inclusion of Wii Sports is heartening (God, I miss the days of quality pack-in games), but no second Wiimote? No Virtual Console controller? Really? For how much Nintendo is trying to bring the whole family together to play these games, why not kickstart it by including two remotes right in the box? The picture gets a little clearer, though, when you see that, retail, the Wiimote/nunchuck combo will go for a cool $60. Yikes. Likely too much money for Nintendo to eat. At least the awesome VC controller is only $20. But now, if you want two Wiimotes/nunchucks and two VC controllers with the system, we're up to $350. And you're still buying other games too. Knock $50 off the bundle and this becomes more palatable.

That brings us to the Virtual Console. For a while now, I've been adamantly against having to buy each game individually, but that's just where Nintendo's going. Thankfully, the $5-10 price isn't awful and there's at least something appealing about buying the games and having them forever on your Wii (unlike how tenuous a subscription service would feel)--no need to keep lugging around a lot of those old cartridges. I'm still curious about some of the technical details--will there be some sort of Steam-esque online verification necessary to play the games? Really, I'm just upset thinking about the money that's going be drained into the VC--isn't a $5 NES game the ultimate impulse buy? Like I'm not going to buy them all--fuck. (By the way, first Virtual Console game I want to download? NES Ice Hockey baby!!) Another nice little surprise tucked in today's announcements: the MSX arcade system will also be supported by the Virtual Console. I can't wait to see the breadth of nostalgia software that will be available.

Launch titles? Zelda is right on track and looks tremendous, but Metroid Prime 3 has slipped into 2007 (sadly, I fear this means Super Mario Galaxy will inevitably be delayed next--likely to Xmas 2007). The loss of Metroid weakens the launch lineup considerably and puts even more importance on third-party efforts headlined by Red Steel (though, so far, third-party support is stronger than it's been in years). If Wario Ware or Excite Truck slip, this will start looking ominously like earlier Nintendo launches. The wild card is how all the third-party ports take to the Wii, e.g. Tony Hawk, Madden, and Rayman. I'm looking forward to hearing what's on track for next year. The lineup looks bare so far, but some surprise announcements of Mario Kart, F-Zero, and/or Animal Crossing have to be coming. A precise launch calendar has yet to be finalized, though, so we'll see what happens.

What else? The Wii bells and whistles look nice, but it's hard to get a grasp on everything until I've got the Wiimote in my hand. I'm intrigued as hell by the Opera web browser, but this stuff always sounds better in the theoretical stage. The presentation of the "spinning Earth" and "whirlwind" of digital pictures (watch the videos on the Japanese Nintendo site not to mention the interface presentation on IGN) is top-notch, but it remains to be seen if it's all innovation or yet another home entertainment all-in-one gimmick.

My reservations about some of the latest news aside, you better believe that I'm still getting in line REALLY early on November 19th (or 18th) and am going to absolutely drown in the Wii glory. Nintendo's so close to redefining the industry...I wish them the best of luck. Wii are coming. Be prepared.

(For more Wii coverage, check out the indispensable wii.ign.com).