In the age of a million gadgets and lean wallets, the storied game company faces a new challenge: convincing people that they need a new video game system rather than, say, a new iPad.
The Wii U, which starts at $300, isn't lacking in appeal. It allows for "asymmetrical game play," meaning two people playing the same game can have entirely different experiences depending on whether they use a new tablet-like controller called the GamePad or the traditional Wii remote. The GamePad can also be used to play games without using a TV set, as you would on a regular tablet. And it serves as a fancy remote controller to navigate a TV-watching feature called TVii, which will be available in December.
Nintendo, known for iconic game characters such as Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda, is expected to sell the consoles quickly in the weeks leading up to the holidays. After all, it's been six long years and sons, daughters, brothers and sisters are demanding presents. GameStop Corp., the world's No. 1 video game retailer, said last week that advance orders sold out and it has nearly 500,000 people on its Wii U waitlist.
Even so, it's a "very, very crowded space in consumer electronics" this holiday season, notes Ben Bajarin, a principal analyst at Creative Strategies who covers gaming.
Apple's duo of iPads, the full-size model and a smaller version called the Mini, will be competing for shoppers' attention. Not to be outdone, Amazon.com Inc. has launched a trove of Kindle tablets and e-readers in time for the holidays. These range from the Paperwhite, a touch-screen e-reader, to the Kindle Fire HD, which features a color screen and can work with a cellular data plan. Then there are the new laptops and cheaper, thinner "ultrabooks" featuring Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system —not to mention smartphones from Apple Inc., Samsung and other manufacturers.