Wii U Launch Price: Fils-Aime Thinks You’ll Be ‘Pleasantly Surprised’

I don’t want to sound harsh, but the latest tidbit about Nintendo‘s upcoming Wii U console is frankly more interesting than anything they showed at E3.

In an interview with IGN (via VG 24/7), Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime had these words to say about the launch price of the Wii U:

“Nintendo believes in being a mass market product, so unlike our competitors when they’ve launched historical systems to maybe start at a really high price and work their way down, we don’t believe in that … We want to launch at a price that’s going to represent an ongoing great value. How do we launch at a value that we’re going to be able to sustain for a long time? I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised, if you will, about the way we’re managing the value equation.”

Intriguing. Wii U pricing has been a point of fervent curiosity since the console’s announcement at the 2011 E3 keynote; the project seems so ambitious – with hi-def visuals, a touch-screen gamepad, and more – that it seemed impossible Nintendo could deliver the Wii U at a price that would satisfy their casual consumer base. The troubled launch of the Nintendo 3DS – which started at $250 before a steep price drop only a few months later – was an indicator for many that if Nintendo wasn’t careful, a similar fate could befall the Wii U.

Even though Reggie didn’t specifically mention the 3DS, his statement at least shows the company is conscious about failures of the past, and realistic about what they have to do in the future for the Wii U to be a success. We still don’t know the exact price, but where I was previously expecting a console in the $300-$400 range, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the the Wii U now launches at its predecessor’s price point of $250, which would indeed be a good deal for a new, hi-def home console.

Here’s the bigger question, though: If Reggie knows enough about price plans to give this statement, then can’t we assume Nintendo has a solid idea of the final price? And if that’s the case, why on Earth was the price announcement not part of their E3 presentation?

Most reporters seem to agree that Nintendo had an underwhelming showing this year; their main keynote was mostly a string of announcements we were either already aware of, felt entirely predictable, or failed to create enthusiasm. But if they had done their hour of tech demos and then closed it off with an announcement of Release Date and Price Point, wouldn’t that have drummed up more interest? There were enough mildly intriguing things during the conference that, personally, had the Wii U been announced with a solid price at the same time, I may have resolved to buy one when it launches. And many others are probably in the same boat. More importantly, where else is Nintendo going to have this large a platform to make the pricing announcement? It just baffles me.

Oh well. At least we now know that Nintendo isn’t planning on robbing your pocketbook with the Wii U. But their E3 presentation did prove they’re still perfectly capable of wasting our time.