Today, Nintendo finally let loose practically everything about Wii. For starters, what was leaked on the Seattle PI website a bit early is accurate. The Wii launches in the US, Canada, and Mexico on November 19th. For the second time, Nintendo is introducing a new system to the Americas first. The Wii doesn’t arrive in Japan until December 2nd. It will retail for $249.99 in the US, technically meeting Nintendo’s earlier promise that the console will be available for less than $250. Canadians will find Wii priced at $279.95 CDN. Initially, Wii will only be available in white. Don’t expect to see other colors on store shelves at least until mid-2007. The package includes one Wii Remote, one Nunchuk controller expansion, the sensor bar, a stand for the console, the necessary cables, and Wii Sports.

What you'll be carrying home Wii Details

Wii Sports is a collection of five simple, easy to play games that focus on the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii Remote. Wii Boxing and Wii Bowling were shown for the first time. They’ll join Wii Tennis, Baseball, and Golf in the Wii Sports collection. It’s worth noting that these package deals apply to the North American release only. In Japan, Wii Sports must be purchased separately, and Nintendo of Europe will only be announcing all of their launch details tomorrow.

A lot of Nintendo fans have been disappointed by the announced launch date and price point. For the past month or so, message boards have been abuzz with rumors that the Wii would launch in October or even late September and at a significantly lower price than $250. These rumors were rooted in some credible statements by various third parties such as game developers and publishing executives, but I feel that the disappointment is unjustified. We have to remember that Nintendo itself never said anything that about the launch date other than that it would launch in the fourth quarter of 2006. As for the price, while they initially said it would be under $250, in later statements, they rephrased that a little bit and started saying that Wii would not exceed $250.

Nintendo plans on pricing their games at $50. Third party publishers are free to set their own prices. Extra Wii Remotes run at $40. Nunchuk attachments must be purchased separately for another $20. The classic controller will probably retail for $20, but Nintendo has only officially given the Japanese price. Nintendo finally confirmed that Wii will not have DVD playback capability. Nintendo did not mention whether or not the console would include an SD card, but it had previously mentioned that there would be 512 MB of internal memory to store downloads and other data.

Speaking of downloads, users will be able to purchase Virtual Console games using Wii Points cards, which must be purchased at a store (just like Microsoft Points). The standard offer will be a 2,000 for $20 (or $24 CDN). So $1=100 Wii Points. NES games will cost 500 points, SNES games will be 800, and Nintendo 64 games will set you back 1,000 points. Nintendo did not mention if this was set in stone. Will the bigger games cost more? Will third party titles follow the same pricing guidelines? Supposedly, there are some original titles in development for the Virtual Console as well.

Classics from Sega, Capcom, Konami... Wii Points Cards

The announcement of Wii Channels was a pleasant surprise. When you power on the Wii console, you’ll see a variety of boxes representing different interactive content channels that make use of an Internet connection. Nintendo unveiled just a few today, but more will be developed of the future. The Forecast Channel allows you to interact with maps and displays to view weather forecasts for locations across the globe. The purpose of the News Channel is pretty obvious. It will be automatically updated with articles sorted into various categories. The Photo Channel will allow users to view photos and home videos stored on an SD card. You can edit photos with familiar drawing tools using the Wii Remote. Nintendo’s demo showed a user browsing hundreds of photos with no slowdown, not even when all of the thumbnails were on screen at once. The Wii Message Board allows you to type messages and post those photos. These messages can be made available only to people accessing the same console, or you can even post messages to other consoles, PC’s, and even cell phones.

The Mii Channel lets you create avatars as seen in Wii Sports. You can customize the hair, face and other features. Best of all, you can have multiple avatars stored simultaneously. Then, you can transfer your avatars to the internal memory of your Wii Remote. When you take your controller to your friend’s house, you’ll then be able to use your customized characters in his games.

Nintendo will publish three titles at launch: Wii Sports, Excite Truck, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. They will join twelve or so third party games on launch day. Yes, that does mean that Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has been delayed. It was originally billed as a launch title, but now Nintendo is telling fans not to expect it until 2007. I’m pretty disappointed about that because I was looking forward to it even more than Zelda. By the way, the GameCube version of Twilight Princess has been delayed into December.

There’s an interesting change to note for Zelda fans. Link has been left-handed ever since he was first introduced (actually, there are some discrepancies in some of the 2D sprites, but official artwork has always shown Link holding his sword in the left hand). However, for the Wii version of the game, Link wields his sword in his right hand. Master game designer Miyamoto explains that this change was made to make the controls feel the most natural for the majority of players who will be using the Wii Remote to swing Link’s sword with their right hands. The GameCube version of Twilight Princess will still feature left-handed Link.

Those of you who’ve been following Metroid will be happy to know that Retro Studios has added Advanced and Expert control options. E3 attendees complained that turning and aiming felt a bit sluggish in the E3 demo. The latest build seems to have alleviated these problems.

Nintendo showed off a couple new games as well. Enjoying success on the DS, Big Brain Academy is jumping onto the Wii. Fire Emblem made a video appearance, and a new IP called Deep Blue has players SCUBA diving in the ocean. Apparently, you’ll be able to connect with friends online and explore the sea floor together.

All in all, I thought it was a pretty satisfying presentation. The November launch and $250 price tag were pretty much what I expected, and Nintendo held almost nothing back. In fact, I think the only thing Nintendo didn’t talk about is what the Nintendo DS and Wii can do together via wireless communication. Nintendo said that they’ll talk about that in the future. The controllers are a lot more expensive than I thought they would be. I would’ve have expected to be able to get both pieces together for $30 or $40. I’m also not sure if selling the Nunchuk and Remote seperately is the best idea. It could lead to some confusion, and I’m a little worried that developers will hesitate to make games, especially multiplayer games, that use the Nunchuk since some households won’t have one Nunchuk attachment for every one Wii Remote they own. I am pretty disappointed about the Metroid delay, but we’ve still got Zelda, ExciteTruck, and several interesting third party games as well for launch day.

By Andrew Thivyanathan – 09/14/06

Screenshots for Nintendo Reveals All About Wii