What will the Wii U cost?

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At this year's E3 we learned a lot about Nintendo's new Wii U home console, but as expected, we didn't learn of a launch date or a price. We do know it's coming this holiday so at least we have a rough idea of a date, but price is still a mystery.

There've been clues though. Back before E3, Nikkei (via Engadget) said the Wii U would cost around 30,000 yen, which translates to something like $380. Of course Nikkei also said Nintendo would show off the Wii U Gamepad being used as an car navigation system, and that didn't happen, which casts a lot of doubt on their leaked price.

Clue number two comes from Amazon.co.uk which briefly listed the Wii U at a pre-order cost of £199 (or about $310). Amazon UK later canceled all pre-orders at this price and removed the listing. Now they just offer to inform you when the system is available for pre-order. What made the listing seem really bogus was the July 14th ship date that it carried.

Another online retailer, ShopTo, has the Wii U available for pre-order for £279.85 (about $435). They do note that their price is subject to change, and they're not listing a release date.

So nothing definitive but consensus seems to be at least $300. Backing that up is a story making the rounds: in an interview with The Telegraph Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, while talking about the development process that led to the current design, said:

"Sometime during that final discussion we almost gave up on the idea of the additional screen," says Iwata. "This was due to our concern over the expected high cost, it may not have been feasible to create this and sell it at a reasonable price point for the consumers."

That doesn't bode well for a cheap home console, at least not at launch.

So how much will the Wii U retail for? I'm going to make a prediction of $349.99 with a launch date somewhere in October. Nintendo generally doesn't take a loss on hardware but I think $400 is just too high considering their fanbase of casual gamers. And perhaps they won't be taking a loss at $349. It's important to remember that the Gamepad isn't a 'smart' tablet and it isn't multi-touch; both of those factors should hold down the cost of that component. And the Wii U itself doesn't seem to be a real graphics powerhouse. It stands up nicely to the Xbox 360 and PS3 but both those consoles are half a decade old (or older).

So yeah, I'm sticking my flag in the $349.99 mark. Anyone agree with me? If not, what's your prediction?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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