The Wii U at this point has been all about speculation. Speculation on graphics horsepower, speculation about online infrastructure, and even speculation on games for hardcore gamers. So what about speculation on price?
The price of the Wii U will be a big factor in many ways when it's released this holiday season. Nintendo released the 3DS at $249.99 in March 2011 in the United States and suffered a great deal because of - but not only - due to the price. Nintendo tried to let third party devs flourish on the 3DS without having a killer app available at launch of their own. When the third party developers failed to have a game that was a must have (Super Street Fighter IV was a good try but not enough) the sales quickly faded and something drastic had to be done (hence the famous price cut and great games later on).
Now we have the Wii U coming this year with Nintendo already going on record saying that the system will "not be cheap" but will try to find the best possible price without taking a loss or too much of a loss at the beginning. In my mind this can only mean a price that will exceed three hundred dollars. Why? Well the perception is that Nintendo makes systems that are less powerful than competitors, caters to children more than adults and doesn't care about online gaming. Taking this into consideration, Nintendo has said that it wants to truly change relations with not only third party developers but especially the consumer who wants each year's Call of Duty to have HD graphics and seamless online multiplayer gameplay. Nintendo has a lot of work to do to accomplish this and not much time to do it in. It is possible though....
(New Super Mario Bros. Mii as a pack-in could help sell a Wii U to anyone....)
Launching the Wii U (name change also?) at $349.99 with a killer pack-in game like, dare I say it, New Super Mario Bros. Mii would make a huge impact on sales. It would be very aggressive on Nintendo's part to pack a brand new Mario game with every Wii U sold and something that hasn't been done since the SNES Super Set. Nintendo would also at the same time market the Wii U as the most powerful home console ever released (which will be true) by getting at least one or two big name third party exclusives with amazing graphics combined with the innovations of the new controller ready for the holiday season. All this and not to mention all the great cross platform games that will be easily portable to Wii U (Resident Evil 6 is a must) and the system will more than justify the $349.99 price tag.
(....and Resident Evil 6 could help sell Wii U to those who want Nintendo games but also M-rated games)
Consumers will buy a console at $349.99 if they see the value it represents. Nintendo has to show in the games themselves (not just specs) just how much better they can look than the current gen and how much better the interaction will be with the new touch screen controller. They also have to show all the new ideas for their online approach while proving why it's a better choice than the competition. I also find it very encouraging to hear about Crytek, DICE and EPIC Games making their engines ready for the Wii U to use to the full. Nintendo is being really good with taking feedback, updating and quickly sending out the latest dev-kits to developers to give them more time to make the most polished games they can for launch. This is all going to payoff and help Nintendo get off to the great start it needs.
The Wii U can easily be this holiday's system of choice for those who just want one Next Gen system that can play all ranges of games and not just games that Nintendo makes alone.