Inside Nintendo Land and the loneliest pop-up store in Christendom

News and comment by Claire Reilly

Nintendo has opened a pop-up experience store in the Sydney CBD as part of a national road tour to demonstrate the gaming brand’s new Wii U console system. The store, which is located beneath Myer on George Street, features a number of consoles for consumers to play with as well as a stage area to try out some interactive dance-gaming.

Although the gaming console does not launch until 30 November, Nintendo is using the pop-up stores to generate buzz around the game with store staff pointing consumers towards retail stores to complete the path to purchase.

Pop-ups have already been established at the Perth Cultural Centre, Adelaide’s Rundle Mall, Fountain Gate in Victoria and Pacific Fair in Broadbeach, Queensland. Another store planned for Brisbane’s King Georges Square was been delayed due to storms in the Brisbane area.

The Wii U is available for pre-order now from JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith, EB Games and The Gamesmen. There are two versions – a Basic Pack with 8GB of storage in white (RRP $349) and a black Premium Pack with 32GB of storage (RRP $429)

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Opinion: First Impressions

This journalist visited the Sydney store at lunchtime on a Tuesday and, while the shopfront might get busier on a weekend, it looked like the loneliest pop-up store in Christendom. This may be due to its out of-the-way location – it can be found two levels below street level, next to a food court, without a great deal of foot traffic from passers-by.

Inside, the staff were very helpful – albeit a little vague on some of the tech-and-spec minutiae that I was interested in establishing – and there were plenty of available stations to get a hands-on experience (see above: empty store).

But the real issue with the experience was the device itself. Not with the concept – the idea of dual displays on the handheld console and on the TV is novel, and having a crack at my old mucker Mario and the single-player “Nintendo Land” games was fun.

No, it was the actual GamePad itself. It was heavy. And it was big.

It is hard to imagine kids progressing from the lightweight remote (or Wiimote) that came with the original Wii console, up to a tablet-style device that is chunky and almost as heavy as an iPad. Yes, it is packed with a 6.2-inch screen, stylus, built-in camera and microphone, and NFC capability, all of which the Wiimote didn’t offer, but you can certainly weigh up those extra features when holding the heavy GamePad (most likely in two hands).

Another issue with the GamePad is that there is only one device actually bundled in the box. It is compatible with Wiimotes and Nunchuck accessories, but those must purchased separately (or with a previous Wii console), and the sensor bar that is required for some Wii games is not even included in the 8GB Basic Pack. While this might make it a good option for upgraders, the bundle is a bit spare for those entering Wii land for the first time.

It has been a while since a gaming brand has released a totally new console. But it remains to be seen whether or not the Wii U will be broadly accepted, or whether it just becomes a clunky add-on that buyers avoid.

Either way, if Nintendo wants to generate some buzz around the product, then they need to get the Nintendo “experience” out from the subterranean passageways of shopping obscurity and up into the light.

Demo stations in the Nintendo pop-up store.

The Wii U GamePad (pictured above older Wii remotes).

The Wii U pop-up experience store.

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