But Will U?
Nintendo has finally unveiled its launch plans for the Wii U, after months of
debate and speculation. Two SKUs are to be offered on November 18th: a “Basic”
Wii U package with a mere 8GB of storage space and no game includes for $300 or
a “Deluxe” package for $350 with NintendoLand and a “Deluxe Digital Promotion”.
Both only come with the Wii U GamePad, so families who don’t have a Wii and the
Wii Remote controllers will have to buy them separately if more than one person
will be playing.
The price points are pretty much where I thought they’d be. There was some
hope that the pricing would be $50 less, or $250 and $300, but it wasn’t as high
as it could have been. Software prices are also unsurprising, based on what
GameStop is showing. The range is wider than what we’ve seen over the course of
this console generation, as a general $40-$60 range is the general rule. The $60
games seem to be the AAA titles; New Super Mario Bros. U and NintendoLand are
$60. ZombiU is also $60, as is Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. We don’t yet know how much an
additional GamePad (or tablet controller) will be. The Pro Controller is
retailing for $50, and additional Wii Remote controllers will be $40.
The good news is that the launch window - not necessarily on launch day, but
within the following weeks - looks to be fairly stacked with games. Many will be
ports, but there are are a few original efforts in the lineup as well. Those who
decide to take the plunge on Wii U shouldn’t have to wait too long to begin
building a decent library of titles to enjoy.
My early projection is that between 1.25 and 1.5 million Wii U consoles will
sell between November 18th and December 31st. That falls below the 1.92 million
Wii units sold during November and December of 2011, and falls slightly below
pace if you remove the first two weeks of November. My thinking is that, much
like we’ve seen with the Vita, price perception is going to be a problem. The
difference in this scenario is that Nintendo-loyal consumers comprise a decent
base, and many will pay premium pricing to own the next Nintendo platform. After
that, the picture gets murky. Will there be any supply constraints? Will
non-Nintendo consumers pay $350+ to play New Super Mario Bros. U, or will they
wait until after the holiday when tax returns hit and money is a bit more
available? I don’t believe that 1.25-1.5 million units is a bad number. Perhaps
it’s slightly low, but it’s hard to accurately pinpoint trends for forecasting
the success of a platform after six weeks. What will be most interesting is that
the Wii U number is for November and how successful the actual launch is. If
it’s a million or more, my projection will likely be too low. If it’s between
500,000-750,000 units, then I think it’ll be in line.
As for possible reaction from Sony and/or Microsoft, the chances of seeing a
reactionary price drop are pretty low. Microsoft has no reason to lower the
price of the Xbox 360. There are subsidy plans for those who can’t afford the
hardware outright, plus the 360 has been on top for an extended streak of time.
Sony, meanwhile, has been a firm second place throughout 2012 and its YOY
comparisons are reasonably close to even versus a year ago - unlike the 360,
which is nearly 25% lower. I think both companies stay the course, perhaps
instead offering holiday bundles with recent successful first-party offerings to
sweeten the deal.
Retailers are hoping for a big lift from Wii U. The potential for success is
there, but concerns about price perception, competition from current consoles
and from the growing smartphone/tablet market, and a continued weak economy
could keep Wii U from being that rare bolt of lightning that strikes twice. For now,
the countdown is on, and we can only hope for the best.