REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — Nintendo has taken its lumps, but it’s fighting back today with a price cut for the Wii U video game console.
Effective Sept. 20, Nintendo is cutting the price of the deluxe set of the Wii U console by $50, lowering it to $300. At the same time, Nintendo will launch a new limited edition bundle, The Legend of Zelda edition with black hardware. The system will have 32GB of storage, a special etched GamePad with Zelda lettering, a downloadable version of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, and a digital version of the Hyrule Historia book.
Many people have written Nintendo off as Microsoft and Sony ready their new consoles, but the Kyoto, Japan-based company believes that its software lineup and a better value for consumers will revive sales of the flagging Wii U.
In an interview with GamesBeat, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime acknowledged that sales of the Wii U have been slow. In the second quarter, Wii U sales hit a virtual standstill, with only 3.5 million since its November 2012 debut. Fils-Aime said that the price cut will make the system more competitive and show that the company is fighting for its share of the market.
Nintendo is also introducing a new handheld, the Nintendo 2DS, that won’t have stereoscopic 3D imagery.
The company is also putting a lot of focus on introducing better software, which started with the launch of Pikmin 3 in August. The company has launched the New Super Luigi U and it will launch strategy game The Wonderful 101 in September. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD will launch on Sept. 20 with the new reduced price console in digital form, and it will debut in stores on Oct. 4.
Fils-Aime said the Hyrule Historia book, which has been on the New York Times bestseller list, is a very well-done experience. But he acknowledged that some folks aren’t Zelda fans.
Nintendo’s software push continues into the heart of the fall retail season, with Wii U Party coming on Oct. 25, bundled with a Wii Remote for $50. On Nov. 22, it will launch the new Super Mario 3D world for the Wii U. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will start selling on Dec. 6. Also coming this holiday but not yet scheduled are Wii Fit U and Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
“We are making sure we have strong software to support our hardware,” Fils-Aime said. “We have a great slate of games. We are having a steady series of launches that kicked in with Pikmin 3.”
Lewis Ward, a game analyst at market researcher IDC, agreed in an interview with GamesBeat that the Wii U has suffered from a lack of first party games. The timing for the price cut works now because Nintendo has a short window before the next-generation systems come out to make some noise with the Wii U.
“They want to get everybody who is on the fence about the Wii U to commit to it before the Xbox One and the PS 4 arrive,” Ward said.
Third-party titles coming soon are Scribblenauts, Skylanders: Swap Force, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Sonic Lost World, Assassin’s Creed IV, and Watch Dogs. As recently as Aug. 12, Nintendo chief executive Satoru Iwata said that he was not considering a price cut for the Wii U.
“It has not had the regular pace of software to drive momentum,” FIls-Aime said. “We have addressed that, with Pikmin 3 onward. The $50 price decline is an added way to put more value behind the proposition. We think now is the right time to strike to further motivate consumers.”
Nintendo previously had its Wii U Basic version at $300, with 8GBs of storage. The Wii U deluxe set, which was selling at $350 and will now be $300, has 32GB of internal storage.
Nintendo hasn’t said what will happen to the Wii U Basic, but Ward believes that retailers will discount it heavily until it runs out of stock and then Nintendo will end its life. Ward said he believes that the Wii U Basic was just 15 percent of overall sales and gamers will not miss it. If Nintendo had kept that SKU and dropped its price by $50, then that would have been a more impactful price cut. Nintendo says that the Basic model is “currently in very limited supply.” If consumers can find it, the suggested retail price remains at $300.
Still, Ward said, “A $50 price cut will put them in the traditional position of being much cheaper than the other consoles.” The Wii U at $300 will compete with a $400 PS 4 and a $500 Xbox One.
Fils-Aime said, “Nintendo focuses on what we do well, what we can control, what we can make happen. The competition will do what they do. For us, it is about putting a strong line-up out there.”
Nintendo will be putting its games into malls and touring events. Fils-Aime said Nintendo doesn’t talk about its ad budgets, but he said each launch will be strongly supported with ads.
“What gives us confidence is we know this gaming market,” Fils-Aime said. “We know consumers are looking for entertainment. If they have strong software, they will buy the hardware to play it.”