It's been a tough day in the office for Nintendo. The US launch hasn't entirely gone to plan, the online situation is... grim. But will Nintendo get these issues sorted out in time for the Australian launch, and have the troubles in the US affected your decision to pick up the console locally? We discuss all this and more with Daniel 'Vook' Vuckovic.
MARK: It doesn’t look good Vook – the US launch of the Wii U has been... let’s go for the understatement and say ‘troubled’. There’s the massive day one patch, the strange 50 cent charge to verify credit cards details, and then there’s the neogaf user who somehow accidentally managed to access a debug menu on a retail console.
Tough day at the office for Nintendo.
The Wii U hasn’t even launched here in Australia, but have all these day one woes impacted your thinking when it comes to the potential success of the console here in Australia, or do you expect most of these issues to be fixed in the next couple of weeks?
VOOK: The events and problems that have transpired since the Wii U was launched in America have been a little troubling, if not more disappointing to this Nintendo fan. Sure, no launch is perfect but Nintendo has a lot of problems on their hands that have to be rectified and fast.
It's probably too early to judge how this will impact the system's long term success in Australia (or anywhere in the world) but the initial experience, that first impression of the Wii U is a terrible one. You buy this console, take it out the box and before you can even use it properly online you're waiting upwards of an hour for the system to download (then install) and unlock all of the main features. That's an hour by American internet standards, what about when it launches here? Our internet is mostly terrible; some people have terrible download caps as well.
In a year's time, it won't matter, but now — at launch when they have to make that first impression? It's not setting a good precedent.
MARK: Nintendo has always made slow, deliberate steps when it comes to online and it almost feels as though what Nintendo has attempted with the Wii U, at launch, has been a step too far. It's typical of Nintendo's usual online shenanigans — clunky, ill-considered — but on a far grander scale.
With online, Nintendo has a remarkable gift — in its attempt to make things user friendly it ends up making its devices way more cluttered. Ridiculously backwards steps like friend codes exemplify this, but Nintendo continues to make the same mistakes.
Tethering accounts to one single device for example. What's the point of an account system if it can't be transferred? That's utterly ludicrous, but completely par for the course when you consider Nintendo's attitude towards online in previous consoles.
Nintendo excels at building online systems that completely ignore the good precedents set by other services. There's a time and place for marching to the beat of one's own drum, but sacrificing user experience out of a strange stubbornness is destructive.
VOOK: In all fairness, friend codes are finally dead. You can add friends, and follow people just like you can on Xbox Live and Twitter respectively. Yes everyone else has been doing it for years. It's the standard and we shouldn't really award Nintendo anything for finally choosing to do it that way but it is a positive move.
However, for each positive step that the Wii U has made online, the lack of friend codes, Miiverse, friend messaging, the screenshot tool, writing and drawing to communicate. There's still issues like you mentioned; things that are just plain weird.
Your download account shouldn't be tied to a console; it should be well tied to your account. Apple, Google, Sony, Microsoft, Steam and every digital download service in the world does this. Nintendo's the only one not doing this. Why is this a thing?
Why is there a video chat application, but not a voice one that runs through the system? There's enough RAM to do it. If you're opening the doors to communication with text and drawings why is voice that much worse? People have been talking on the phone since 1892; it's not a foreign concept.
Mark you're right, Nintendo have the right to do whatever they want online. We shouldn't expect them to just duplicate Steam, Xbox Live or PSN. It wouldn't fit, they've done their own thing but at the sacrifice of some 'standards' that exist in the digital world.
At least the system plays games just fine, even if you download an update for each one.
MARK: When you begin the defence of a modern games console with the world "at least the system plays games just fine" and finish that sentence with a caveat, you know things aren't exactly going to plan!
And that's the problem with the Wii U really, it's attempted to stretch itself in response to consumer demands and a rapidly changing media landscape. So far Nintendo seems to have come up short. With the Wii U online integration was always going to be a massive question mark — doubters were waiting and watching for things to go wrong, to reaffirm that things really haven't changed and it's difficult to argue with them at this point.
It's a little unfair in a sense. Both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 had teething problems at launch, and it's to be expected, but nowadays people expect more from online services and more from their consoles. For sure Nintendo will be able to tidy things up, but at what cost? How have these launch day woes affected the opinions of people who were already cynical about the Wii U?
VOOK: Some people are going to cynical about anything Nintendo puts out, more so if it's got the Wii name. People have preconceived notions about what Nintendo now is and you are never going to change those people's minds.
Every system will have teething problems, it's up to Nintendo now to correct what they can as soon as possible. They need to or they'll have another Nintendo 3DS situation.
It's funny, just two days ago everyone I spoke to, apart from the usual cynics, had at least a mostly positive outlook on the Wii U. Everything was falling into place, but now the reality of launch has forced myself and others to take a step back and reassess where the system is at. I'm still excited for the Wii U, I want play one for more than 20 minutes. It has to be experienced to be able to be judged. In six years, hopefully we can look back on the Wii U and think, well that was alright.
MARK: I've found myself playing Nintendo apologist multiple times — among friends, among gamers, on Kotaku. I count the GameCube as one of my favourite consoles of all time and despite the fact it was never really my main console of choice, I was happy to have the Wii there for games like Super Mario Galaxy, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Skyward Sword, et al.
It's strange how the things I love about Nintendo also happen to represent what frustrates me — that stubbornness, that commitment to doing things one specific way. That focus on games, on design — I always root for Nintendo's success, I can't help it.
That said, Nintendo has an uphill struggle with the Wii U. The world is a very different place compared to six years ago, and while Nintendo has made several concessions in an attempt to cater to that new landscape, it might not be enough.
But it's almost impossible to say at this point. Hopefully in a couple of weeks tings will be ironed out for the Australian launch, but I have my doubts.