When Nintendo released the Wii in 2006, $250 got you the machine, one Wii remote, a “nunchuck” attachment, and a copy of Wii Sports. It was a bargain in comparison to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 which ran $400 for the model with an adequate hard drive. It was practically free in comparison to the PlayStation 3 that retailed at either $500 or $600 depending on the model. The low cost of the machine wasn’t the only secret to its success though. It was also the games. PS3 and 360 games cost $60 standard, but Wii games were just $50. Games for older hardware cost less to make, thus the lower price.
Nintendo won’t be able to replicate that magic with Wii U. Contrary to early speculation, Wii U games will retail for $59.99.
Retailers Amazon and GameStop on Thursday posted pre-order pages for Wii U games, both Nintendo published titles like New Super Mario Bros. U and third-party games like Ubisoft’s ZombiU, that will cost $59.99. A Nintendo representative in turn confirmed for Polygon that $59.99 is the “baseline price” though “specific games could be more or less.”
For the next 12 months, this pricing model will be acceptable to most consumers as Wii U is technologically comparable to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. That said, Wii U games are technologically comparable to games from 2005, and while HD productions were monumentally expensive to produce at the time—and they very much still are—production costs have lowered somewhat in that time. When Xbox 720 and PlayStation 3 games retail for $59.99, Nintendo and its publishing partners will have to swiftly reconsider this price structure.
There is another logic at work in Nintendo’s game pricing. It has to raise prices on retail games to mollify chains like Walmart, Best Buy, and GameStop who will now compete with Nintendo more directly. Nintendo has promised that first-party games will be available on Wii U as digital downloads simultaneously with retail releases.
Nintendo was expected to maintain the Wii’s competitive $49.99 game pricing. Amazon listings for Wii U titles like Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge appeared in May pricing the games at $49.99.