NEW YORK (AP) — Nintendo Co. has just launched the Wii U, a game machine designed to appeal both to the original Wii’s casual audience and the hardcore gamers who skip work to be among the first to play the latest Call of Duty release.
Just like the Wii U’s predecessor, the Wii, which has sold nearly 100 million units worldwide since 2006, the Wii U arrives in a new world.
Video game console sales have been falling, largely because it’s been so long since a new system has launched. Most people who wanted an Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or a Wii already have one.
Another reason: People in the broad 5-to-95 age range have shifted their attention to games on Facebook, tablet computers and mobile phones.
The Wii outsold its competitors, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, in its first four years on sale, logging some 79 million units by the end of 2010.
In the age of a million gadgets and lean wallets, the storied game company faces a new challenge: convincing people that they need a new video game system rather than a new iPad.
The Wii U, which starts at $300, isn’t lacking in appeal. It allows for “asymmetrical game play,” meaning two people playing the same game can have entirely different experiences depending on whether they use a new tablet-like controller called the GamePad or the traditional Wii remote.
The GamePad can also be used to play games without using a TV set, as you would on a regular tablet. And it serves as a fancy remote controller to navigate a TV-watching feature called TVii, which will be available in December.
Nintendo, known for iconic game characters such as Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda, is expected to sell the consoles quickly in the weeks leading up to the holidays.
After all, it’s been six long years and sons, daughters, sisters, and brothers are demanding presents.
GameStop Corp., the world’s No. 1 video game retailer, said last week that advance orders sold out and it has nearly 500,000 people on its Wii U waitlist.
So, it’s a “very, very crowded space in consumer electronics” this holiday season, notes Ben Bajarin, a principal analyst at Creative Strategies who covers gaming. “Nintendo has to be a cut above the noise here.”