Nintendo Wii U goes on sale with apps, games amid tight supplies, TV service delays
Nintendo, working to prove it can still succeed by marrying its hardware to exclusive software, began selling the Wii U console amid tight supplies and delays in implementing a new TV-viewing service.
The first new video game console for U.S. homes since 2006, the Wii U initially won't offer the Nintendo TVii service that the Kyoto, Japan-based company has touted as a centerpiece of its capabilities. The feature will be available sometime in December, the company said on Nov. 16, without being specific.
"The value of Wii U goes well beyond day one," Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo's North America president, said in a statement. "Nintendo will be enhancing the Wii U experience with continuous updates and new services for Wii U owners."
Devante Cordero, 16, drove almost two hours with his parents and two sisters to New York City from his home in Pennsylvania to secure one of the first spots in line outside the Nintendo World store at Rockefeller Center. He wanted the latest console, and a chance to meet Fils-Aime.
"He's awesome," said Cordero, one of hundreds in line at the store. "If I get to meet him, it's like a bucket list."
The Cordero family arrived at the Nintendo store Nov. 17 at 1 p.m., bundled up in hats, gloves and winter coats as the temperature dropped to 43 degrees in the city. Like many there, the family members brought folding chairs and portable game consoles to pass the time, said Selina Cordero, 40, Devante's mother.
One appealing feature in the Wii U is that five -- the size of her family -- can play at one time, she said. That's one more than the current system allows.
"Now we can actually really compete as a family," she said. "No one needs to sit out."
Isaiah TriForce Johnson, 35, a marketing promoter for Grassroots Gaming, was the first person in line for the Wii U at Rockefeller Center. He first arrived Oct. 23, then was forced to return home to Brooklyn as Hurricane Sandy made landfall Oct. 29.
The next day, he walked three hours back to Nintendo World from his home to resume his place at the front of the line. It's Johnson's eighth time being the first fan to buy a new system or game, he said.
"I just like being the first," Johnson said. "It's no different from being the first in winning in video games. Being the first is the first."
Analysts have suggested the company should get out of the business of making hardware that sells for $300 or more and focus instead on selling popular games based on its iconic Mario and Zelda characters for play on others' tablets and smartphones.
Company executives said they won't change course.
"By creating software and marrying it to strong hardware, we believe we create groundbreaking experiences," Fils-Aime said in a September interview.
Nintendo is likely to sell 3.5 million units in the U.S. this year, according to researcher IHS Screen Digest. The company may also sell all it can make in the first six months, said Michael Pachter, a Los Angeles-based analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc. Demand after that may be average about 10 million units a year, he said.
By comparison, sales of the original Wii totaled 5.84 million units in the four months after its November 2006 release and 18.6 million in the 12 months that ended March 2008, according to the company.
Nintendo TVii, controlled by a touch-screen GamePad, provides a gateway to streaming and pay-TV services through a home page and search engine. The results are integrated so that a user looking for a specific TV show or movie using Nintendo TVii would find options ranging from an online service to a rerun on cable.
The delays could make it more difficult during the crucial holiday shopping season for Nintendo to position the Wii U as a whole-home entertainment center for parents and kids alike.
Pressure is mounting on President Satoru Iwata to repeat the success of the Wii console after the 3DS handheld player failed to meet expectations, prompting the company to cut its profit goal by 70 percent in October.
Nintendo and rival console makers Microsoft and Sony face increased competition in the game market as consumers turn to smartphones and tablets such as Apple's iPad to play free games like Ruby Blast and Hill Climb Racing.
Nintendo stock gained 1.4 percent to 10,550 yen on Nov. 16 in Osaka, Japan. The shares are little changed this year.