Nintendo's Wii U Makes a Crummy First Impression

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Wii UGetting my hands on a Wii U was easier than I thought.

I just drove over to my local Toys R Us a few minutes before it opened on Sunday. There were only eight people in line ahead of me, and the store had roughly 15 units available that weren't reserved ahead of time.

Actually playing with the system -- well, that's another story.

Ready? Set! Wait.

In a rush to get the system out ahead of the critical holiday shopping season, Nintendo's (NTDOY) hardware shipped without a significant, and unfortunately lengthy, firmware update.

When it seemed as if the required software update was taking forever to complete I surfed the Web to see if my problem was unique. It wasn't. Reports of folks having to wait as long as two hours for the download to complete -- and another half hour to install after that -- are everywhere.

It gets worse.

Some impatient gamers resorted to turning off their systems during the update, or attempting to restart the process. They are now finding that their Wii U's have been rendered unusable.

Another Brick in the Wall

"Wii U owners, please do not power down or unplug your system while downloading updates." Nintendo tweeted on Monday. "Doing so may cause damage to your Wii U."

That's sage advice, but it comes a day late for too many early adopters who now have bricked systems. Besides, how many gamers will bother to check Nintendo's Twitter page before beginning the surprisingly lengthy software update?

Connectivity interruptions that prove fatal to the Wii U aren't the end of the world. They're covered by the system's warranty. The problem, though, is that returning to the store where it was originally purchased for an immediate swap isn't so easy. Most stores are already out of stock of the $300 gaming device.

Consoles aren't perfect. Sony (SNE) saw its PlayStation network hacked repeatedly last year. Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox owners suffered through the debilitating flashing red lights that became known as the Red Ring of Death.

However, the industry has suffered through three consecutive years of declines in sales. It can't afford to blow this new generation of systems.

Just Wait Until Christmas

Nintendo has a problem now, but keep in mind that many of the Wii U systems being purchased this week remain firmly packed in their boxes. Nintendo gamers tend to skew younger than the PS3 and Xbox 360 players, and that means that a lot of Wii U consoles will be wrapped and gifted next month.

If you think that teens and adults can be impatient, just wait until younger players overload Nintendo's servers on Christmas morning, only to find their parents scrambling to reach customer support to find out what to do with their inoperable presents.

Nintendo has a problem on its hands, and it's about to get worse.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Nintendo and Microsoft. The Motley Fool has sold shares of Sony short. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft.


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10 Comments

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knighti8

remember something you will have hundreds of thousands turned on and downloading at once on christmas eve/christmas... other products have crashed entire servers which means it is possible for the Wii U to do the same... Imagine what happens if the server goes down how many units become Warranty cases and how long it will take to fill the orders again? this is bad planning on the part of Nintendo.

November 27 2012 at 2:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carla

updating it now.......

November 26 2012 at 11:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Shaun

You shouldn't contradict yourself in your own article... you start off saying that the console is plentiful, "roughly 15 units available that weren't reserved ahead of time" and then later say "returning to the store where it was originally purchased for an immediate swap isn't so easy. Most stores are already out of stock of the $300 gaming device."

Yes, the update is annoying but only took 30 mins which could seem like hours to some eager to play.

November 26 2012 at 10:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Shaun's comment
metalsmithgirl71

He didn't contradict himself. When he got one, there were several. Now there are none.

November 27 2012 at 7:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tony Rayo

Wow, some of you are very protective of The Big N. The report was obviously mostly about the writer's experience. Yes, many console owners know not to mess with their system during a firmware upgrade (and there is a usual a message saying as much... some handheld systems even require that you plug the unit into an AC outlet to prevent the battery from dying before the firmware could be correctly applied), but I still don't know who is buying the Wii-U (I think most of the hardcore crowd is waiting to see what Microsoft and Sony bring to the table, despite Nintendo's attempts to claim this as the only hardware any gamer of any level would need). Also a 5GB Day 1 patch does kind of prove that Nintendo shoved this out of the door (which is strange to me considering I don't think another couple weeks would have made any difference).

November 26 2012 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Frank

This is a poorly hyped up article in a lame attempt to make up your own news. The update took me 20 minutes tops, which is actually better than some PS3 updates. All systems warn not to turn it off in the middle of the updates (xbox, ps3, psp, psp vita, MS windows, apple, and wii). Stick to writing on the bathroom walls Rick.

November 26 2012 at 5:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kristin

I'll never buy anything from Nintendo again... Look how little big title games the Wii has.

November 26 2012 at 4:43 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
bevesbasic

Parents-----install the new soft ware NOW------Than wrap it back up----easy solution !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

November 26 2012 at 3:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Dodongo

I think you're blowing this way out of proportion. The update only took me about 30 minutes.

Anyway, unplugging ANYTHING during a firmware update is completely idiotic. That will brick any console.

November 26 2012 at 10:13 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dodongo's comment
Thiago Braga

Actually, only downloading issues shouldn't brick any console. I have to much problems with my internet connection and this makes me not want to buy this. If unplugging when installing it, I'm totally with you. But for now, I'll just wait for a new stable version of the console.

November 27 2012 at 11:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply