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Shortage Of Nintendo's New Wii U Expected


For those who want to buy Nintendo's new video game console, you may have to wait a while. The Wii U goes on sale Sunday, but many stores have already sold out pre-orders. On Amazon, you can find the new console, but for much more than Nintendo's $350 price.

To find out what's the big deal for gamers and for Nintendo is, we've called Daisuke Wakabayashi. He covers Japanese video game companies for The Wall Street Journal, and joins us from Tokyo.

Good Morning, Dai.


WERTHEIMER: So, Nintendo came out with its last console - the Wii - six years ago, and it, it really kind of shook things up with its motion sensor technology. Is Wii U going to take the same kind of great leap forward?

WAKABAYASHI: I think Nintendo hopes so. It's an interesting system. It's the first to use a controller with its own screen. And so what that is is, so, you know, for years historically, we play video games and everyone looks at the one common TV, but what Nintendo does with the Wii U is to put a screen on the controller, and through that controller what they hope it will bring about is a kind of new form of game play. They like to call it a synchronous game play. But while it's kind of a nerdy sounding word, what it basically means is that not everyone who plays a game is on a level playing field. And so some people may have more information, other people may have less information. And that kind of thing they feel like will allow game makers to create new and interesting types of games that haven't existed in the past.

WERTHEIMER: Now the original Wii appealed to new groups of people who were not normally gamers - including little kids, senior citizens. What about Wii U? Is it aimed broadly or is it aimed at serious gamers?

WAKABAYASHI: Yeah. I think what Nintendo hopes is to be able to bridge those two audiences. So if you owned a Wii you're going to be able to use some of those controllers together with the new Wii U controller. And so they're trying to implement some of the, you know, fun, easy motion sensing type games that were the trademark of the Wii games, and also add this kind of more sophisticated, hard-core gaming experience with the Wii U controller. And hope - they're trying to bridge both audience. Now, you know, it's kind of hard to be all things for all people, but Nintendo has a great history of kind of finding games that can appeal to a really wide audience, and I think they're hoping that a lot of third-party game developers will, kind of, fill the void for these kind of hard-core games.

WERTHEIMER: Now, when Nintendo creates a console that has its own screen, I guess that's in a sense going mobile. But why aren't they trying to move on to all the mobile technologies that people are now carrying around with them - the iPhone's, the tablets?

WAKABAYASHI: Yeah. This is kind of like a philosophical divide between Nintendo and the industry. Nintendo believes that by creating its own hardware and then creating the games to run on that new hardware, they can create really unique experiences that, you know, it's not a kind of one-size-fits-all. It believes that only by doing that can they keep their software really valuable. Now if you look at the pure numbers of how many smartphones are in the world, how many tablet computers there are in the world, the opportunity is really, really big. But for Nintendo it feels like that if they wade into that pool they're just going to be like everyone else and it's just going to devalue their software. So they believe that the only way to keep their software valuable is to come up with their own hardware.

WERTHEIMER: Daisuke Wakabayashi is a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal in Tokyo. Dai, thank you very much.

WAKABAYASHI: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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