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Update: Over a year later, gaming blogs have finally caught on. From Kotaku: "The Wii U feels, increasingly, like a half-step before Nintendo can make a portable machine that can output console-quality graphics when plugged into a TV without needing to be plugged into a wall. In other words, it feels like a prelude to whatever handheld succeeds the Nintendo 3DS XL. It therefore feels like it could be the last machine Nintendo needs to make before it can entertain the idea of converging its handheld and console lines into one."

Welcome to the party, guys.

Original story...

Nintendo has now announced launch dates and pricing for the Wii U worldwide. Here in the States, the Wii U will hit stores on November 18, 2012 for $300 in a basic package and $350 in a deluxe package. You can pre-order your Wii U from multiple outlets, though, it shouldn't be necessary. Unlike its predecessor, the Wii U is not going to fly off shelves and you should be able to get a lower price if you can wait past Christmas

The Wii U is, unfortunately, a product of panic. You would not think Nintendo a company to panic, but that is exactly what they are doing. It is also the product of a company that has lost its way when it comes to innovation. The Wii U is not innovative, it is reactive, and, worse, it is reactive to problems that do not exist and uses technology that doesn't solve those problems even if they DID exist.

Nintendo has repeated—ad nauseum—the basic design impetus for the much-hyped Gamepad—a tablet-like controller for the Wii U...People living in your house should not have to fight over the TV. Having the second screen means one (or more) people can keep playing on the Gamepad while someone else watches TV.

Do people at Nintendo live in their offices? Have any of them been in a house any time in the last decade? Most families have MULTIPLE entertainment options in their house. The average American home has 2.5 kids and 3 televisions. Then there are computers, portable games systems, etc. There are five people living under my roof and at least two entertainment options per person. There IS NO NEED for that function of the Gamepad.

OK, so the Gamepad is still innovative as a controller. Right? Well, no. The Gamepad essentially turns the Wii U into a giant, non-portable DS. The TV is the “top” non-touchscreen part of the DS, the Gamepad is the “bottom” touchscreen part of the DS. There's nothing innovative about that. Nintendo has shown some interesting uses for the Gamepad, but all the demonstrations merely highlight several troubling concerns about the Wii U and the Gamepad.

First, Gamepads are not easily replaceable. Here in the US, additional Gamepads are not going to be immediately available. In Japan, additional/replacement Gamepads will cost roughly half the cost of the Wii U system bundle. That's a lot of money and trouble if your child or pet breaks it. Replacing a broken Dualshock 3 isn't cheap, but it's a lot easier to do than replacing a Gamepad. When two-Gamepad games hit the market, you'll have to almost buy a new system (expensive Gamepad) to play those games.

Second, the Wii U systems come with a Gamepad, and that's it. Unless you already own a Wii, you're going to have to pony up for additional Wii Remotes and Nunchucks. Oh, and if you never did jump on the Wii Motion Plus bandwagon (as I haven't), get ready to replace all your existing Wii Remotes. I can't imagine that any Wii U games will work with older non-Motion Plus controllers. Oh, and everybody will have to buy the new Wii U Pro controllers for some games. Talk about nickel-and-diming customers to death.

Third, the Wii U Gamepad is going to lead to consumer confusion. It looks like a tablet, acts like a tablet, people are going to think it's a tablet. But IT'S NOT. It's a “dumb terminal [1].” It can't operate away from the console—not even in another room in the house (depending on the broadcast strength of the Bluetooth connection). You can't load games to it and take them on a trip. You can't have one person playing a regular game on the Wii U while someone else plays a different game on the Gamepad. [2]

The Wii was incredibly successful, but it had an intrinsic problem: because it was the underpowered runt of the last generation litter, it had a very short shelf life. It also attracted just those types of gamers who don't buy loads of software, so third party support dried up right quick. Nintendo's answer was to rush out another underpowered runt (as compared to what we will soon find out are under the hoods of the next Xbox and PlayStation consoles), with a gimmicky controller and no compelling reason for the casual Wii fans to upgrade.

In other words, exactly what they did with the 3DS. Look for a price drop of at least $50 (and I'm guessing more like $100) before Christmas 2013. The Wii U will be in a buyer's market.

[1] Throughout the history of computing, dumb terminals have been introduced into the mainstream consumer market many times. They always fail. Look, even our phones are “smart.” Who wants a dumb tablet-looking thing?

[2] This is a little bit of a guess, but they haven't shown this functionality, and I'm pretty sure they would if the system could handle it. Oh, and while we're on this subject, the whole Nintendo TVii ridiculousness is completely counter to Nintendo's stated goal of making the Wii U independent of the TV. If dad is watching his football game through TVii, ain't nobody else using the Wii U Gamepad for Super Mario. (Not to mention the fact TVii doesn't play well with my auto-correct. That moniker is just stupid.)