Christmas is coming early for gaming fans who may have always wanted to put their hands on a new Xbox One system but have bulked at the nearly $400 price tag. For you penny-pinchers, or people with penny-pinchers in your close family, circle of friends or as significant others, Microsoft is giving you a break this coming holiday season with special prices on their latest gaming system, and that includes exclusive bundle packs that feature some of this fall’s most anticipated new games. In the console wars, being the first to cut prices is usually seen as a sign of weakness, but with a successful launch last fall and over 5 million units shipped so far, it maybe that Microsoft just wants to ensure that it’s a very Xbox Xmas. (more…)

Today was Nintendo‘s big announcement of the Wii U‘s release date – November 18th – plus more specifics on their next generation console. Kotaku has kindly provided a great summary of what we know and what we still don’t know about the Wii U. Here’s the highlights.

First off, the price. There are two different prices for two different bundles. There’s the basic bundle which sounds like the option if you already own a Wii and are only interested in upgrading your hardware, not the bells and whistles Nintendo’s lumping in with their deluxe bundle. In the basic bundle, for $299, you’ll get,

…the console (which is way more powerful than the Wii and somewhere in the ballpark of the PS3/Xbox360, give or take… probably better, not worse), the GamePad (the signature of the system, a controller with a 6.2-inch screen, two analog thumbsticks, a forward-facing camera, a bunch of face buttons and a gyro sensor), 8GB of on-board memory, AC adapters for the console and controller, a sensor bar and—surprise!—an HDMI cable. It’s white. It does not come with any Wii Remotes, which will be used in many multiplayer games. Hopefully you have some. They need to be Wii Remote Pluses.

And while this bundle seems to contain everything you’ll need to get the Wii U experience, since I’m sure what most of you are interested in is that GamePad, there are some significant bonuses to the deluxe bundle. For the price of $349.99 you’ll get,

…all of the above, though with 32GB of on-board memory, a console stand, a charging cradle for the GamePad and a membership in something called the Deluxe Digital Promotion (DDP!), which will provide discounts for digital downloads, through 2014. The Deluxe version comes with Wii U flagship game Nintendo Land packed in.

The extra memory is easily the biggest perk, but the addition of the console stand, a charging cradle for the GamePad, and a DDP membership sounds nifty. And for an extra $50 that’s not bad, especially if you’re serious about being an early adopter of the Wii U. I believe if they wanted to make that deluxe package truly deluxe they’d have included New Super Mario Bros. U over Nintendoland, but they seem adamant we be excited about some silly theme park game.

The other interesting addition is TVii. I know, I know, the whole adding “ii” to something is exceptionally dumb, but the service does sound kind of neat. It’s, obviously, a streaming service which will give you access to things like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube on the GamePad, “even if someone else in the house is using the TV that the Wii U is hooked up to. It’ll even pull stuff that was DVR’d on your TiVo.” That is something I remember them really hammering home at E3, the ability to use the Wii U even if the TV is being used by someone else. That’s a cool feature and it’ll be interesting to see what Microsoft and Sony come up with to compete. I guess there’s Microsoft’s SmartGlass, but I don’t get the impression that’s nearly as robust an experience as what the GamePad will provide.

Game wise we can expect Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U to be the available launch day games with Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Bayonetta 2 – a surprising Wii U exclusive – ZombiU, Pikmin 3, Wonderful 101, Assassin’s Creed III, Mass Effect 3, Lego City Undercover, Wii Fit U and many more throughout the launch window of November 18 through March 31.

Knowing all this, are you excited about the Wii U? Will you buy one the day it releases and if so which bundle? Do you think Wii U will be collecting dust once the novelty wears off like its sad older brother the Wii? Personally, I still use my Wii to watch Netflix and the like but it’s been ages since I played a game on the system. I’m unsure if the Wii U provides a different enough gaming experience that I’ll feel compelled to shell out $300 bucks. You?