Et tu, Nintendo?

Et tu, Nintendo??!?

It’s a gray, wet day in Boston, and that mirrors my mood well enough. Within hours of my last published post (extolling, of all things, the virtues of lower-priced gaming options), and about one year after I first began celebrating the Wii, Nintendo announced that the Wii will cost $250. A second Wiimote and nunchuck will sell for $60 ($40 + $20, respectively.)

Is $250 cheaper than a core Xbox and much cheaper than a core PS3? Absolutely. Is it a disappointment for consumers (like me) who allowed themselves to be seduced by rumors of a $200 (or lower) price point?

Absolutely.

I don’t believe that I’m exaggerating. A large percentage of the user comments in Joystiq (and other forums) read like this:

  • “Not as cheap as I was hoping it would be, which means I won’t be getting it this year.”
  • “$250 is steep for that console, I’m sorry. For $50 more you could get a barebones 360 and that’s ridiculous.”
  • “$60.00 for a complete controller does kinda hit me in the gut.”

The sad thing is, I’m not sure that consumers would be having this reaction if Nintendo had simply done a better job of managing rumors. It didn’t need to announce the price earlier; it could have simply stated, loudly, repeatedly, and without an ounce of ambiguity, that rumors of a sub-$200 launch price were completely incorrect. $250 could theoretically have sounded like a good deal, once upon a time.

Xbox-hating cynics among you: hold your tongues. I’m a huge fan of Nintendo’s (as any regular reader of this blog knows) and I truly want the Wii to succeed. I think that the entire game industry could benefit from a triumphant Wii, both in terms of how it might broaden the market, and in terms of how it might justify more innovation. And I’ll still be buying a Wii at launch, even at $250. The question is: how many others will?

Perhaps Nintendo is planning to cut the price soon after launch. Could work out great. But we’re playing for positive network externalities here, and we’re playing on a court that’s years long. Is it really worth squeezing the customer for every dollar, just to make a few extra bucks in the short term?

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