This week, Microsoft announced a holiday season discount on Xbox One, slashing the price of no-Kinect console bundles to $350. It's a very good deal, and a shot across Sony's bow heading in to the crucial Christmas sales season.
You'll do doubt recall Nintendo threw a little pre-holiday Hail Mary of its own last year at about this time, knocking $50 off the price of admission for its slow-selling hardware, and even throwing in a free game or two. But even the price cut and the debut of the acclaimed Super Mario 3D World didn't do nearly as much to increase the Wii U user base as hoped.
So what, if anything, does this have to do with Xbox One? Microsoft has been working all year to please gamers who have been on the fence about which new-gen console to purchase, dropping mandatory Kinect and achieving price parity with the best-selling PlayStation 4. This latest move puts a bit more pressure on Nintendo to improve its own value proposition, but perhaps not all that much.
A quick survey of top retailers (Amazon, GameStop, Best Buy, Walmart and Target) shows a number of new Wii U bundles at around $300 each — several with at least two games included. The system already has a decent-sized library after two years on the market, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is just weeks away. It's a good time to buy.
But Xbox One has an insurmountable edge over Wii U when it comes to most gamers, and that's blockbuster third-party titles. Pretty much everything multiplatform title that's being released for PlayStation 4 is coming to Xbox one, so the price cut brings Xbox One into favorable territory for gamers who aren't particular to one brand or the other, or who don't anticipate any must-have exclusives on either system. (Though Sunset Overdrive sure looks like a blast, doesn't it?)
Inexplicably, Nintendo's biggest carrot for these core gamers — Super Smash Bros. — is not presently being offered in any sort of official retail bundle. I wouldn't be surprised if Walmart or Best Buy cook up their own BOGO-type deal to move Wii U hardware, but it seems if Nintendo was planning a price cut or SSB console bundle, they would have had to announce it by now.
I'm a Wii U day-one owner and I've been particularly critical of how Nintendo has managed the platform for the last two years. Unless Nintendo answers Microsoft's smart move and makes the Wii U a too-good-to-pass-up $250 price point right away, I think it will be Kyoto's way of saying "Meh". That is, they are resigned to the Wii U being a niche console for the most dedicated of Nintendo fans, a secondary console for well-heeled core gamers, and as profitable as can be with low sales volume and a small install base.