After months of waiting, Nintendo finally has unveiled the launch details for the Wii U console, with its fancy touch screen GamePad. It'll be available on our shores Nov. 18 in two versions: a $300 basic version in white, with an 8GB hard drive; and a $350 deluxe package in black, with a 32GB hard drive, an online premium membership and a copy of the game "Nintendo Land."
Now that we know details, the question comes: Is the Wii U worth it? Remember that you're buying not just the console but also the games and services that come with it.
The prices are about what we'd expected. As for which version to buy, it's hard to see who wouldn't drop an additional $50 to get a game included, along with more hard drive space for downloaded games. The difference between 8 GB and 32 GB is rather significant, considering that most games are likely to consume around 2 gigabytes each. (On a side note, games will be available for $60 apiece, either through retail or for download in the Nintendo eShop.)
Then there are the services. Nintendo will be offering an interconnecting online portal known as MiiVerse, where you can chat with friends and share challenges on particular games. In "New Super Mario Bros. U," for example, you can see how other players fare in speed runs and score contests, then try to top them. While PlayStation Network and Xbox Live already have a full running start in terms of social gaming, Nintendo at least is trying to catch up.
In addition to MiiVerse, the Wii U offers NintendoTVii, which allows you to watch a variety of programming through live TV and Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu Plus online services — all within an easily accessible menu where programs are listed. (These services are also available on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, but in divided channels instead of a collected hub.) You also can use recording capabilities through both DVR and TiVo, if you happen to be a subscriber.
On top of this, sports programming will feature a new level of interactivity, where users can check scores and see where their teams are on a virtual grid set-up.
The Nintendo TVii service is free, though you'd still need to pay for programming for Hulu Plus and Amazon, as well as the monthly Netflix streaming membership.
Finally, the all-important factor: games. You will be able to play most games from your previous Wii library — both discs and titles purchased through WiiWare and Virtual Console through downloads. You also can use all your previously purchased accessories, including Wii remotes and Nunchuk controllers, as well as peripherals such as the Mario Kart steering wheel.
More than 50 new titles will come out over the next six months. Though some of them, like " Darksiders II " and "Mass Effect 3," have been released for other consoles, they've been enhanced to use the GamePad in specific ways to make the experience more immersive.
There are a number of new titles as well, including "New Super Mario Bros. U," which lets you play in a contest with four other people, and "The Wonderful 101" (previously called "Project P-100"), where you guide a group of heroes into a world-saving battle. Other games announced by Nintendo include "Call of Duty: Black Ops II," coming in November, and "Bayonetta 2," a Wii U exclusive, coming in 2013.
Is the Wii U worth buying? It is if you select the premium system with its good looks, larger hard drive and copy of "Nintendo Land." And with all the games on the horizon, plus compatibility with Wii titles, you'll have plenty to play.