Wii U Pricing and Launch Details

Did the Wii U Just Miss the Perfect Price Point?

Believe it or not, there seem to be consumers who are debating whether to buy a Wii U. Apparently, some people are even still on the fence about buying either an Xbox 360 or a PS3. Cutting out every other single factor, is there a price point that could make a videogame console purchase more obvious for the undecided?

Before the recent announcements of Sony’s new PS3 Slim revision and Nintendo’s Wii U pricing, Gamasutra ran an article framed around the contention that the current Xbox 360 and PS3 entry prices are the biggest barrier for potential console buyers. And yet, at $200 for the cheapest subscription-free Xbox 360 and $250 for the cheapest PS3, the cheapest Wii U arrives at $300.

A common initial reaction to the Wii U’s pricing (my own included) was that it’s $50 too much. The Wii debuted at $250 and didn’t have an official higher-priced bundle. However, being honest, wanting the Wii U to sell for $250 regardless of features is not that different from wanting Blu-rays to be priced less than $10. If I’m interested in a Blu-ray title, I’ll buy it at $10 or less. Of course, that doesn’t mean I only buy cheap Blu-rays, but it’s a price threshold that makes the decision easy.

Granted, like many other tech enthusiasts, I’m rarely attracted to entry-level models, especially if they’ll require expensive memory upgrades down the road. I also have no doubt that our Bonus View readers can see the value in paying a little more to get more features (e.g. a higher-end Blu-ray player that has built-in Wi-Fi). A $50 price difference for a console really isn’t that much. It’s less than the price of a single boxed game. Like many, I’ve been conditioned over the years not to fixate heavily on a console price without also considering the price of its games and accessories.

Just last year, Nintendo publicly admitted that it launched the 3DS at too high a price point, and was forced to slash that price from $249.99 to $169.99 after only a few months. This quick action is at least partially credited for a turnaround in 3DS sales. In contrast, Sony’s PS Vita remains at $249.99, even though many consumers see its base price and expensive memory as a big purchase barrier – even more so than a lack of titles. With that said, handheld consoles are a different beast, and the incredible success of Nintendo handhelds from the Game Boy to the 3DS is hardly a blip in the public consciousness. They’re not a part of the living room experience or morning talk shows.

More and more, I expect that Nintendo will orchestrate a sales success for the Wii U this holiday period. The combination of Nintendo die-hards and parents looking for a family-friendly product should certainly be enough to trigger sell-outs of the limited Wii U supply. Still, if the Wii U and consoles in general are going to continue to be hot holiday items, the gaming companies behind them may need to rethink their pricing.

Setting aside other factors, is there a magic number that would get you to buy a new console this year?

8 comments

  1. Ben

    Sure seems a lot better now that the PS3 has actually raised its base price to $270 (game included, but still).

    The launch appears to be well supported with titles, and the preorders are strong apparently. I think it will do fine for the mean time. I’m surprised MS and Sony aren’t being more aggressive by going $200 or less with their hard drive equipped consoles, but I suppose the profits are more important to them than curbing the competition.

  2. William Henley

    Yeah, there is a price point for me. While I am not thrilled about the Wii U, if I were to see it under $200, I would probably make the plunge. I may actually do that once the used systems start to penetrate the market. It’s how I ended up with an XBox 360 – I wasn’t thrilled about it, only a couple of games I wanted, but when I saw a used version for $149 a couple of years ago, I jumped on it.

  3. I’m waiting till the new Xbox or Playstation comes out, even at $200 I have no desire to buy another Nintendo console after the horrible Wii, it started with the N64 and just got worse, I LOVED the Nintendo and the SNES but my love for Nintendo has dwindled with every console after that, with the Wii they made it pretty clear they arent focused on their Nintendo fans anymore IMO. Shovelware was abundant on the Wii and Nintendo hardly put out anything decent except for their few obligatory Zelda, Mario and Metroid games.

    I really cant see the Wii U being any different but that will probably be just fine for all those kids out there who HAVE to have one this Christmas, a high price point and launch titles that already exist on other consoles doesnt seem very appealing to me and I really havent run into ANYONE yet that said they are getting one for sure, everyone I’ve talked to is on the fence or not bothering, so I’m not sure exactly who is “selling out” these pre-orders….

    Oh well, I’ll wait till next Christmas and see whats on the horizon from Microsoft and Sony

    • RollTide1017

      I agree! My Wii was basically a dust collector, after the first week it hardly ever got used. I traded it in to pay for a Kinect sensor and that also became a dust collector. I’ve now learned my lesson, no more getting suckered in by motion control gimmicks, it’s just not as fun as the commercials make it seem. Soon you’ll be able to use your iPad/Android tablet with the 360 so I don’t see the point of the Wii U.

  4. I waited in line for a Wii pre-order when it came out and played it non-stop for the first year or so. Then I got a PS3 and only played the Wii when a major title I was interested in came out that I couldn’t get for the PS3. Then I got an Xbox 360 and sold off the Wii after realizing I hadn’t touched it in over 6 months and nothing was coming that really interested me enough to keep it.
    The Wii U is the first Nintendo item to come out in a long time that I have no interest in at all.
    Time will tell how well it is received, but I don’t see it as being anywhere near the success of the Wii.

    • As it is right now, I think that the launch line-up adds another distinction between the launch of the Wii and Wii U. Without the somewhat devious dual release of a ‘Twilight Princess’ like game, what will those people waiting in line for a launch Wii play? Pikmin? Nintendo Land? New Super Mario Bros.?

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