Let the video console wars officially begin.
Nintendo's new Wii console will debut Nov. 19, two days after Sony's PS3, at a price of $249.99. The price includes one wireless Wii Remote controller, one Nunchuk controller and a collection of five different Wii Sports games on one disc, which anyone can play using simple movements.
Every Wii console includes a series of on-screen "channels" that make up the Wii Channel Menu, the starting point for all of the console's functions.
When connected to a TV, the Wii Channel Menu offers a simple interface, letting users pick games to play, get news or weather, view and send photos or even create playable caricatures of themselves to use in actual games.
Wii's new controller allows users to pinpoint targets in games or move through the Wii Channel Menu with precision and ease. For example, in the Wii Sports tennis game, players swing the Wii Remote like a racket to hit the ball, as in real life. They can add topspin or slice the ball just by angling their hands and wrist like they would in a real match.
"Wii reinvents games for the devoted player," says Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. "But more importantly, Wii breaks the wall separating players from non-players by delivering the best game experiences for the most affordable price. We believe the next leap is games for the masses -- young and old, gamer or non, alone, with a friend or with the whole family."
By Dec. 31, Nintendo will have 30 software titles available, including several big names at launch: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and EXCITE TRUCK.
Nintendo titles will sell for $49.99, about $10 cheaper than Xbox 360. Third party companies, such as EA, will set their own pricing for Nintendo titles.
Other key features? Wii's self-loading media bay can play the entire library of more than 530 Nintendo GameCube titles from day one.
"I believe the Wii will attract new and casual gamers to the world of interactive entertainment," says Larry Probst, Chairman and CEO, Electronic Arts. "It's a fun, easy and economical system that will become a bridge to gaming for mainstream audiences. At EA, we are putting more support behind the Wii than any Nintendo hardware launch since the Super NES."
The key strategy here, of course, is price. Wii is not the technical powerhouse that Xbox 360 and PS3 are, but you'll be able to buy it when it launches. PS3 will be in limited supply, much like 360 was when it launched late last year.
And at $250, Wii will be less than half the cost for the PlayStation 3. The XBox 360, currently, is $399 with a hard drive or $299 without. And you pretty much need the hard drive to really enjoy the unit.
Only 400,000 PS3s are scheduled to be available in the U.S. Nintendo plans to ship four million Wiis worldwide, about double what Sony is projecting for the PS3s. So when you go to Wal-Mart and can't find PS3, guess what will be sitting there waiting? Plus, according to published reports, you'll be able to surf the Internet on your TV with your Wii console, display digital photos and play DVDs.
A New York Times report said that classic Nintendo games will be downloadable to Wii for a cost of $5 to $10 per game and there will be 30 at launch.
I wonder if Microsoft will lower prices for its Xbox to compete. If so, PS3 would really be a heavy gorilla at $500 or more if the competition is all $300 or less. This could get interesting.
I keep wondering, though, if it would be better for Sony to drop two PS3s, much like Microsoft has done. Create one with all the bells and whistles, including the HD DVD player, and charge $575 or whatever for it. Then create a leaner version that doesn't have the more expensive parts and compete with the competition pricewise.