Is Nintendo innovating downwards for Canada?

Jesse Brown on why we are getting the Wii Mini before anyone else

Perhaps for the first time ever, Canadians will have first and exclusive access to a hot new piece of technology. On Dec. 7, the Nintendo Wii Mini will be on sale in Canada, and only in Canada.

Just what is going on here?

Wired breaks it down to two possible scenarios:

1) In the U.S., the original Wii is already on sale for as little as $130 with bundled games, and it still sells briskly. A $99 Wii Mini, which lacks Internet connectivity, presents no particular bargain to American consumers. But in Canada, you’ll have trouble finding an original Wii for less than $150, so the Mini is a good deal.

2) In the U.S., 25% of Netflix subscribers use their Wiis to stream video onto their TVs. There are tons of dedicated gadgets that’ll sling the Internet over to your TV screen, but most of them start at $100. Throwing this capability onto a console is a major value-add for Americans. Not so much for Canadians, because Netflix isn’t nearly as popular here. That’s because the Netflix library is much smaller in Canada and because our ISPs tax us with crazy fees when we burst through our miserly bandwidth caps, resulting in a true cost for HD Netflix that’s well over the $7.99 monthly subscription fee.

So: maybe we’re a good first market for a cheap-o Wii because we inexplicably pay higher prices than Americans for the same products with our more valuable dollars. Or, maybe we’re a good market because of our lousy Internet service. Either way, there’s nothing here to be proud of.

I’ll throw a third possibility into the mix, which is just as depressing:

Consumer electronics are settling down from a cycle of rapid innovation to one of global market exploitation. Tablets, smart phones and motion detecting game consoles will increasingly be offered in stripped down, bare-bones forms to 2nd world markets–places where people can’t afford the slickest new iPad, and where they lack the telecom infrastructure and content licensing to make full use of such gadgets if they did.

Maybe Nintendo is offering the Wii Mini to Canada first because we present a low-risk test-market for such releases. Instead of being, as we’ve dreamed, the testing ground for the world’s hottest new innovations, maybe Canadians will become the industry’s downmarket guinea pigs.

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown




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Is Nintendo innovating downwards for Canada?

  1. Thanks to Harper, Canada has the slowest, most expensive wired and wireless internet in the developed world. He is completely ignorant of how important this technology is to a country’s economy. Instead he is betting everything on low-value-added dirty-energy exports.

    This also just goes to show that a highly-overvalued bitumen dollar does consumers no good. Sure it pumps up purchasing power. But it also pumps up demand. So retailers set higher prices, eliminating any benefit.

    Of course, that makes exports 25% more expensive which is why we have lost 500,000 good-paying export-related jobs. In order to restore competitiveness with a dollar at parity, wages will have to be downsized by 20%, which will make debt 25% more burdensome.

    • You’re blaming Harper and the Oil Sands? I think the CRTC is the one to blame. This is all about affordable access to streaming content on The Internet. Canada doesn’t have that. I guess you can blame Harper for that too…but the CRTC’s policies go way way back.

      • Actually, according to a study out of Harvard commissioned by the FCC, titled “Next Generation Connectivity,” Canada lags behind because of “regulatory hesitation.”

        Telecommunications infrastructure tends to be monopolistic. In Europe and Asia, they regulate it with “open access” rules so many companies can have affordable access. In North America there is limited competition between phone and cable companies that have territorial duopolies. Open access cuts costs and duplication while promoting competition and innovation.

        The CRTC originally moved to bring open access to Canada. Harper shot them down so mega media corporations would have the economic freedom to fleece customers.

        Under Harper’s CRTC (which he influenced with patronage appointments,) it brought in the backwards Usage Based Billing ruling. This was to put a stop to unlimited 5Mbps which Bell was offering a decade ago. (Normally technological advancement means faster and cheaper over time.)

        Because of a public outcry, Harper reversed the UBB decision, but later something similar was put in place. Canada is the only developed country that has these ridiculous bandwidth caps where users get $80 fines for going over their internet rations. These caps have actually shrunk on some accounts to freeze out internet media so consumers will be forced to pay for expensive On Demand programming.

        This failure is due to policy decisions of the Harper Government over the past 6 years.

    • We could liberalize foreign investment in telecom…. but then the NDP would scream bloody murder….. so I wonder who’s fault this really is.

  2. NetFlix Canada: “Canadians Have Almost Third-World Access To The Internet”

    Short, succinct, and deadly accurate.

  3. Hey JB, you’re getting very good at connecting the dots. I say that in the kindest of terms (with me it’s hard to tell) and I’m glad you write for Macleans.

    Canadians have been brain washed in thinking they have the best in the world; banking, health care, economy, human rights. Canada has an unusual tolerance for oligopolies. We used to lead the world in low-cost internet, communications and human rights. No longer.

  4. Still, on the bright side (for some consumers) “Yeah! A cheaper version of the Wii that takes up less space!”

    I’ve often thought about getting a Wii, but I already have a PS3, and the games on the Wii (and different style of gameplay) seem cool, but not enough for me to want to pay $150 for a second console that I might not use that much. $99 is a different kettle of fish if it goes on sale after Christmas.

  5. Per capita, Netflix is more popular in Canada than in the United States, bandwidth caps notwithstanding.

  6. Excellent article, glad that Canadians are starting to wake up to the realization that they have become an international punchline.

  7. Turns out, you were correct in your suspicions. The third possibility is the case: the Wii Mini lacks internet connectivity and component output, while actually being about the same size and weight as the original Wii.

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/df-hardware-nintendo-wii-mini-review

    “We never quite bought into Nintendo’s announcement that the Wii Mini would be Canadian exclusive – these console revisions aren’t cheap and we assume that the platform holder will roll out the new hardware in other territories in due course. But having spent some time with the Mini, it’s safe to say that we’d be quite happy if Nintendo never releases it elsewhere.”

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