Y U no work, Nintendo?

I’d chalked up the hate storm against the Wii U as the typical reaction from the Call-of-Duty types that seem to pervade gaming these days, with their graphically superior next generation consoles and their foul temperaments that seemed inextricably linked. In my own attempts to reconnect with my latent hobby, I found it difficult to become interested in the graphical prowess of the Vita, the sprawling RPGs of the PS3, or the kinetic shooters of the Xbox 360.

Then I found Nintendo drawing me back into the fold, with games like Super Mario Galaxy 2 or A Link Between Worlds. I’d always maintained that the original DS was the most innovative and fun system for me of the last generation, but I didn’t think the 3DS would be able to do the same. To my surprise, I found myself re-enaged with gaming again. To capitalize on this rediscovered experience of fun (and a decent sale to boot), I purchased a special edition Wind Waker Wii U. So far, the experience has me wondering what Nintendo could possibly be thinking.

Updates and online accounts are nothing new for most gamers these days. However, the Wii U in particular seems to actively punish the user right out of the gate in a spectacularly unfriendly move that engenders a kind of irrational hate normally reserved for people who brought the world Microsoft Windows.

As this long and convoluted post describes , there is no obvious way for a user who already has a Nintendo Network ID to set up their system. Instead, the user must follow a convoluted path normally reserved for those slaying minotaurs. The user must “create a new id” (not really) and then might have the option of transferring a Mii from their 3DS (which they have bought already, of course), which leads to the main menu, which finally allows the user to update their system, which is required before a user can log into Nintendo’s network. By itself, this login cul-du-sac may be enough for a user to return their device or never turn it on again, but it’s what follows which takes the cake.

The Wii U requires a full two hours to update itself completely. To add yet more insult to injury, it failed halfway through (though thankfully it did not have to restart the download again). How is this in any way acceptable? For a console which should be family-friendly, I can’t imagine how a 10-year old or the average parent might find their way through this morass of mind-bending logic that might lead them to their eventual, simple goal: playing a game.

Doubtless the Wii U will make up for this once it finally decides to update itself. Doubtless the games will make up for the waiting for the fun to begin. But how far, and how poorly, have we come from the basic systems of yore, plugging in a cartridge or sliding in a disc and simply playing our games.

Nintendo is not fully at fault here. Their competitors decided a generation ago to create an Internet-connected PC and packaged it in such a way that people rushed to stuff them under their TVs and Christmas trees. Nintendo was obliged to follow suit a generation later. But much like Apple in this regard, Nintendo simply has not admitted that they painfully lack expertise in the area of delivering a good online service, which is yet further hamstrung by their laser-focus on their home market, Japan. For gamers, Japan exemplifies certain niches simply not found in the rest of the world.

Not only did Nintendo create convoluted Friend Code system for the DS, all of their services on the Wii, the 3DS, and the Wii U take life-ages of the earth to respond to the user. A user can only stare in frustration at the spinning icon and the supposedly-pleasing “tingle” sound that plays as you wait for carrier pigeons to deliver data from Nintendo’s servers. It’s worth the exercise, I feel, to see what the average latency is for the Wii, Wii U, or 3DS in connecting to Nintendo’s data centers. It would not surprise me to discover that we’re all connecting to Nintendo’s headquarters in Japan as opposed to a far more sensible structure of server space leased near users.