Looking back, is it worth it?
Back in September of last year (2006), Nintendo held a much awaited press conference that would unveil the last coveted details of their highly anticipated next(new)-gen console, the Nintendo Wii. Nintendo of America president, Reggie Fils-Aime, took the stage in New York and fulfilled every fanboyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dreams by finally setting a price and release date. November 19th, 2006 at a price point of $249.xx, the Wii would see its worldwide debut, in North America. Included in the box: 1 Wii Console, 1 Wii Remote Controller, 1 Nunchuk Controller, all cables and usuals (manuals, etc.), and Wii Sports packed-in. As expected, the internet gaming community (watching live feeds via several sources) exploded with praise and criticism in nearly equal amounts. What were the main gripes? Do we even remember at this point? As far as I can remember, the complaints that most came up with were:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ The price
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ The inclusion of Wii Sports
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ The release date
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ The exclusion of a second Remote/Nunchuk combo
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ A few other small details
I, admittedly, feverishly argued each of these points in NintendoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s favor that day, regardless of the fact that, obviously, I wouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve loved it to be released sooner, as well as cheaper. Despite which side you were on then, we all have an infinitely better grasp on what the Wii is now, and how far our $249.xx went. What do each of those objections look like in the post-launch light, and did Nintendo silence those asking, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Is it worth it?Ã¢â‚¬?
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the cheapest next-gen console!
More than anything else, the price was arguably the biggest point of contention post-press conference. The general consensus was that most wouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been happy with a $199.xx price point. $249.xx was just too high for a Gamecube 1.5 (I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t agree with that at all, but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s another article). Well I have a sneaking suspicion that if Nintendo did set a $199.xx price point, the complainers wouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve then expressed how it was too expensive, and a $179.xx price wouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been good for them. Unfortunately, some people are never satisfied, and most of the people complaining were teenage gamers, without a good grasp on how a business works. As a business, Nintendo exists to make profit. To most it would make sense, but for some, it seemed a hard pill to swallow. Shortly after, we discovered that Nintendo would make a profit on each unit sold from day one. There were many howls that Microsoft and Sony both lost money on each unit sold, that people might have even thought they could change the Big NÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mind. It was distressful to me, because it made sense to me that, unlike Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo is solely in the business of games. They arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a mega-corporation with endless facets of revenue. They never flinched when questioned on their price, and I applaud Nintendo on being efficient enough to produce an incredible machine that consumers are excited about, and Ninty can make profit from it.
Some also complained, with a thin veil, that they felt Nintendo was being hypocritical. They were convinced that Nintendo was alienating the non-gamer they had preached so much about. $250 was too much money to justify a gaming console to the non-gamer. Not even three months since launch, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m pretty sure we can all agree this argument is completely obsolete. Most non-gamers IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve spoken to (coworkers, family members, acquaintances) have expressed their interest in the Wii when I mention I have one. When I mention the price, and that a game comes packed-in, most are pleasantly surprised that it isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t $500, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in fact half of that. Of course my small sphere of influence isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a good gauge for the whole of society. The fact that its impossible to find a Wii in stock seems to show that the Wii is priced just right for the non-gamer.
There was also the argument from some that said they could have a true next-gen console, Xbox 360, for merely $50 more. Unfortunately, they ignored the fact that most gamers agree the core system doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really get the job done. It doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come with a game, it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come with a hard-drive, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t play any games online, and the one controller it comes with, is wired. A weak argument at best, it couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even hold weight then, as most who mentioned it, also admitted theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d never be caught dead owning one.
Even though we know, now, the price of the components that make up the Wii, and recognize that Nintendo makes a good profit currently, I think most are happy with what they got for their $250. For most, the price is justified, and is an argument that has, for the most part, been put to rest. Unfortunately, some still argue about their disdain for the pack in of Wii Sports.
Who Wants Free Games?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What? YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re upset about getting a game for free? IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure I understandÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬? I have felt this way ever since finding out that we were getting Wii Sports packed in, in North America (and every other region, except Japan). This is the first time a game has been packed in with a console since the Super Nintendo came with Super Mario World. It seemed like a sweet deal to me, to be able to walk home with a free game in tote. Once again an issue of price, most complained that they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want what they saw as a glorified tech demo to be forced onto them, if excluding it meant a drop in price. Now that most have played it though, I think, for the most part, we can all agree that Wii Sports can hold its own as a game. It certainly couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ever be considered a fully fleshed out game, but each minigame with its own intricacies, Wii Sports has been one of the brightest gems in the launch lineup, even winning several AIAS awards.
On top of that, it was an ingenious move towards getting the non-gamer interested. From launch day, the consumer has only needed to buy the console itself. They can go home and fully play the Wii from day 1 without having to buy anything else. I also agree with others, that Nintendo will most likely unpack Wii Sports in 6 months to a year, and keep the price at $250. While it was a demo, Nintendo did do something similar with the DS and the Metroid Prime Hunters demo. So I think it will prove to be a moot point in the future.
The Release Date
At the time leading up to the press conference, everyone seemed to agree that Nintendo would almost certainly beat the Playstation 3 to launch. Nintendo again surprised everyone, and disappointed some, by announcing a release date of November 19th, 2006, 3 days after the Playstation 3 release date, and a week after the release of Gears of War. Aside from just wanting to play it as soon as possible, most fans/critics thought it a mistake to release the Wii after the PS3. Not only did it feel like a missed opportunity, but it just seemed like Nintendo had a better grip on production than Sony. Luckily, Nintendo knew exactly what they were doing. Releasing in November gave Nintendo plenty of time for word of mouth to spread. Not only that, but when Sony turned away masses due to limited production, Nintendo was able to fill the gap for some of those who were turned away. Limited in their own supply, Nintendo sold out of units almost instantly, riding on the media frenzy that covered thousands of people camping out for PS3Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s. But while most were camping out for PS3Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s to make a quick buck, almost everyone was in it for the fun with Wii. November also set up Nintendo perfectly for the holidays: a solid month until Christmas, but not too much longer to where the hype could die down before the busiest time of the year. Fast forward to 3 months later and a buying rate of nearly 3 games to every 1 console, Nintendo is still proving that it is all about the fun.
No 2nd Remote?
1 remote and 1 Nunchuk seemed like a nonissue to most, since a second controller hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been included with a system since the Super Nintendo. However, the fact that there wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a second remote/Nunchuk combo included in the box made some people feel that Nintendo was turning its back on the entire concept of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Wii.Ã¢â‚¬? If the Wii was supposed to be about being inclusive, not only with non-gamers, but just in getting more people playing, how could Nintendo only include 1 remote? I personally saw it as a trade off. I think Nintendo evaluated which would be more practical, a game or a second controller set, and obviously understood the merit of including a game. What good are two controllers without any games? At the time, also, most didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand that Golf and Bowling (two of the best Wii Sports) could be played by up to four people with just one remote. Bowling, for me, has been the most inclusive game I can share with anyone, and they havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t flinched once about using only one controller. Another issue thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been put to rest, Nintendo has pretty much erased any concern that any of us had on that September day.
There were a few other minor issues people brought up, that have all pretty much fallen to the way side. One such issue was the price of the remotes and nunchuks. Previously unknown, the price of the remote was announced at the press conference as $39.99. The nunchuk, sold separately, was announced at $19.99. Becoming a much larger issue than Nintendo probably expected, $60 for the combination never seemed outrageous to me when gamers end up paying $50 for a wireless 360 controller, with nearly no new technology in it. Also, with no games as of yet priced at $60 for the Wii, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the better trade off, in my opinion, to be able to pay $10 less for all games because you should never have to buy more than 4 sets of controllers. The other main issue I seem to remember is that some gamers thought a few free Virtual Console downloads shouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been included in the box. While it wouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been nice, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think NintendoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s regretting excluding some form of free downloads, with the recently announced sales of over 1.5 million VC games. No DVD playback was also an issue, but most argued back that almost everyone owns a DVD player. On top of that, if you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re $30-40 for a cheap one. Actually, I always thought this was a stupid argument, but now that my VCR/DVD player wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t play, and my Playstation 2 is having issues as well, I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mind watching DVDÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s via my Wii. Other minor issues were brought up, but most were silenced then.
Well, was it?
Nearly 3 months after the launch, I think most could agree that Nintendo squarely justified every decision made, including price point. Units are still impossible to find, as well as controllers/nunchuks. Wii Sports is such a hit its even been featured on Late Night with Conan OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Brien. While I feel that some of the complaints had some weight, I also felt that many of them were unrealistic, and were brought up as if Nintendo was our grandparents and they werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t spoiling us like they should. I think the video game industry in general has closer ties to its audience/consumers than other forms of media/entertainment. In many ways this is great, as it allows for us as consumers to feel as if our feedback matters. However, sometimes I feel it creates problems, because if something doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go our way (release date pushed back, feature omitted), then we feel like weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been betrayed. People need to understand that Nintendo is, first and foremost, a business. That being said, I really think they tried their best to deliver a product that not only met their goals, and satisfied our needs. And once Nintendo got the Wii into peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hands, it was hard for anyone to be disappointed, because they were just too busy having fun.
What do you think? Was Nintendo vindicated in each decision made? Do you still have complaints? Gripe about them in the comments/forums!