The Wii Mini will lack the Wii's online functionality, SD card slot and GameCube backwards compatibility when it officially launches in Canadian retail outlets Friday. That paring down, Nintendo of Canada communications manager Matt Ryan explained to Polygon, was designed to keep the console at the most attractive price point possible.
"To answer your question, is it based on price: Yeah, of course it is," Ryan said. "We want the system to be as affordable as possible to everybody, and the widest audience possible. By taking out functionality, that allows us to keep the cost down."
That price — $99.99, the cheapest launch price for any Nintendo hardware — is what Nintendo hopes will court the console's two potential audiences: Families that have yet to invest in the Wii hardware and catalog of games, and Wii owners who are in the market for a second.
"There's a consumer out there, there are gamers who have not bought a Wii yet, and there are gamers who have a Wii and want a second one for the cottage, or the chalet, or whatever, who actually don't need the online functionality. So we basically stripped all the online functionality out, and the end result is cost savings for the person buying Wii Mini at $99.
"When you look at that price, and you look at what you get for it, we're pretty confident that that's the right tipping point to get Wii Mini noticed."
"I mean, a lot of the Wii experiences ... don't require online functionality for you to have fun."
These audiences, Ryan said, wouldn't need online functionality to get the most out of the Wii's back-catalog of titles.
"The reason that we took [online functionality] out was that we don't believe that everybody needs that to play games," Ryan said. "I mean, a lot of the Wii experiences, and there's over 1,400 of them that are disc-based Wii games, don't require online functionality for you to have fun. Now, when you played Wii, or you played some of those games on Wii U, there's enhanced fun factor when you play them online. But this system isn't designed for the player who's looking to have an online experience. Wii Mini is designed for families, or a late adopter, or someone who maybe isn't even a gamer yet, and maybe doesn't realize they've got a gamer hiding inside of them."
Ryan explained Nintendo isn't worried about launching the Canada-exclusive Wii Mini around the same time as the Wii U — they're "fundamentally very, very different products" which fill the needs of very, very different consumers. Folks who want the latest hardware with all its bells and whistles can opt in for the $299.99 Basic or $349.99 Deluxe Wii U; newcomers to Nintendo's gaming hardware, or shoppers looking for a much cheaper alternative are right for the Wii Mini.
Though the former product has more hype than the latter, and will likely be the company's "hot product" this holiday season, Ryan said Nintendo isn't neglecting that second group.
"Frankly, I don't know when the R&D department in Japan decided that this was the product coming, and when the decision was made that it was going to be in Canada only. But what we know is there are people who still haven't bought a Wii. Obviously, we don't have a 100 percent penetration of Wii out there, and if we did, we'd be high-fiving each other. Humbly! Because we're a very humble company."
"Obviously, we don't have a 100 percent penetration of Wii out there, and if we did, we'd be high-fiving each other."
Though a press release accompanying the announcement of the Wii Mini referenced its "potential availability" in territories outside of Canada, no other region is currently planning on carrying the console. That decision, Ryan said, happened at "very high levels."
"It's not the fact that there's red in it, and we love red in Canada," Ryan said. "That's not it at all. It's just, we're the market that's been chosen to launch this product, and no other territories has made the announcement that they're launching it. Whether or not we're a test market will have to be seen, but we plan on it working really well."
One factor in the Wii Mini's proliferation is, naturally, how well the system performs on store shelves. Ryan said the Wii Mini and Wii U will "co-exist" during the holidays and beyond, but that ultimately its trajectory will be determined by its reception in the gaming hardware marketplace.
"The life cycle of Wii Mini will be determined — I mean, the experience you can get from it has been around since 2006," Ryan said. "How long are we going to keep this going? We'll have to see how it sells. We have no idea what the response is going to be. We've had a lot of attention about the Wii Mini, and we've had some good results so far from Wii U, but until we go into this holiday time frame we won't be able to assess whether the Wii Mini is a popular product or not. We hope it is, and think it will be, but it's up to the people who buy it to determine that."
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