The Washington Post

Nintendo president regrets day-one updates for Wii U

Aurielle Rounsaville, a Nintendo Co. representative, displays a WiiU video-game handheld console for a photograph at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, on Tuesday, June 7, 2011. (Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg)

Nintendo’s Wii U launch last week got mixed reviews, especially since the new console didn’t have all of its promised first-day features right out of the box.

In an interview with IGN, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said that he was “very sorry” that early adopters had to download a huge patch on their first day to use features such as the MiiVerse social network and the ability to connect to the Internet.

The patch on the Wii U also took a very long time to download. Some users, impatient about the delay or worried that the system had frozen, actually broke their devices when they interrupted the download.

Another feature expected at launch, Nintendo TVii, has been delayed until December.

All these problems have led to a bit of bad buzz for the Wii, though the company says that it has “essentially sold out” of the stock it set aside for the opening weekend. According to a previous report from IGN, Nintendo America president Reggie Fils-Aime said that the Wii U had sold around 400,000 units in its first week on the market.

“I feel very sorry for the fact that purchasers of Wii U have to experience a network update which takes such a long time, and that there are the services which were not available at the hardware’s launch,” Iwata told the gaming news site.

To be fair to Nintendo, game consoles are always a work in progress. New, sometimes game-changing features often come far down the line of a product’s life — a key example being the addition of the Kinect to the Xbox 360. Their mistake was to overpromise and underdeliver.

The Wii U itself is an interesting device with a lot of potential if developers get on board with its two-screen platform. The console’s tablet controller can act as a complementary way to to control a game or as a place to display a player’s inventory or map position. Right now, the games for the Wii U are using the tablet controller in these ways, but the company has yet to release a title that offers a killer application of the system.

One avenue of Wii U play that is certainly worth exploring, though, is the idea of “asymmetrical play” where the player controlling the tablet plays a different role in gameplay than his or her fellow players. Nintendo has applied this in several of its games. In NintendoLand, for example, users play what’s essentially a visual version of tag where up to four players have to catch a fifth person within a certain time limit. In Super Mario Bros. U, players can offer help or put up obstacles for other players.

The Wii U is certainly focused on good, old-fashioned couch co-op play — where multiple players gather in the same room to play something.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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