Nintendo's decision to drop the price of their Wii console was driven by the launch of upcoming fitness game Wii Fit Plus, not as reaction to a slump in sales, Denise Kaigler, Nintendo of America's Corporate Affairs VP, tells Kotaku.
Nintendo's top-selling Wii is getting a price drop of $50 to $200 starting this Sunday, something Nintendo hopes will drive gaming fence sitters to the mass-appeal console.
"Our research shows that 50 million people in the U.S. are considering getting involved with video games, but need a good reason," Kaigler told Kotaku in an email interview. "We feel that this price reduction, occurring during the time frame in which Wii Fit Plus is launched, will give many of them that reason. Generating increased consumer demand just before the holiday season is beneficial not only to Nintendo but our many publishing and retailer business partners."
The announcement of the new price landed during the middle of Sony's keynote at this year's Tokyo Game show. Kaigler said that that the timing of the coordinated Japan and U.S. announcement was the result of many factors, but in the end it was a date and time that "worked well for both of our regions."
Kaigler added that the price drop wasn't spurred by slow sales of Nintendo's console earlier this year, something she feels was more about game releases than console pricing.
"As we've stated before, this year's most anticipated releases for Wii come during the second half of the year. Last year, they arrived in the first half. That's the main reason for somewhat slower hardware sales this year," she said. "Of course, a lower price brings the system into consideration for many more people. But I'd like to ask your readers to not lose sight of what's involved in the comparison. Last year Wii set the record for the highest number of hardware sales for any system in U.S. history. Wii has consistently sold at least 250,000 units since it launched 34 months ago, setting another record for any home console."
The new price, Kaigler says, could also help attract a broader demographic to their console.
"I think the new price, combined with the inherent value of the Wii package, will make the system more attractive to consumers of all kinds, including passionate gamers and people who are still trying to decide whether they should get into video games," she said. "Our research shows that there are several different kinds of prospective buyers. The greatest number includes those who consider themselves possible video game players-they say they're just waiting for the right incentive. We've got a three-part program this holiday season to reach these people: a lower suggested price; hit new software, including both Wii Fit Plus and New Super Mario Bros. Wii; and an aggressive sampling tour that we expect will reach approximately 1 million people. This will provide a lot of incentive. "
While the $200 price tag makes the Wii the same price as Microsoft's entry-level Xbox 360 Arcade, Kaigler says that the experience out of the box for the Wii makes it a better value.
"The key component is value. Right out of the box, Wii owners receive unique motion control with the Wii Remote, and the groundbreaking Wii Sports," she said. "This experience isn't available anywhere else at any price-but now it's available from Nintendo at a more affordable price."
While Nintendo says the price drop was timed to the upcoming release of Wii Fit Plus, Nintendo currently has no plans to bundle that or any other additional game with the console.
"When we have something to announce, we will be sure to let your readers know," she said. She also said that the company currently has no news on the possibility of adding a service that would allow Wii owners to buy or rent videos through the Wii, something both the PS3 and Xbox 360 support.
And what about that rumored Wii 2?
"Our development teams are always working on new possibilities for future hardware and software, but we have nothing to announce at this time," she said.
Kaigler said that there is still plenty of room for the Wii to grow. Especially, she notes, in the realm of the console's WiiWare download only titles which haven't yet reached their full potential.
"This is a service that provides the highest possible range of creativity for the lowest developer investment. And creativity knows no boundaries," she said. "In the grand scheme of things, WiiWare is still a relatively new service. I think the reception so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Games like World of Goo have no doubt inspired other indie developers to say "I want to try that." We've seen a great deal of diversity in the types of games and developers on WiiWare but there is much more to come."