When Nintendo’s latest console first hit store shelves on Sunday, November 18, a small yet vocal group of nascent Wii U owners immediately took to Twitter to decry the machine. Why? Was it a lack of quality launch software? A poorly designed peripheral that escaped media scrutiny prior to the device’s launch? Perhaps the Wii U itself proved unwieldy, like a modern-day retread of the awkward Nintendo 64 controller?
Nope. As anyone who was on Twitter on Sunday morning will attest, the key gripe being discussed and raged against by gamers who’d just picked up a Wii U was the massive download users are forced to undergo before they can use the machine to play games, surf the ‘net or do anything that might count as “entertainment.” As Spike TV’s Geoff Keighly pointed out at the time, the entire update is roughly 5GB in size and as a result it was common to hear gamers complain that the entire patching process took anywhere from four to six hours. Again, that’s four to six hours before these new console owners could use their fancy new machines for any of those machines’ intended purposes.
While Nintendo remains relatively coy on what exactly that update did for the Wii U (or why a new console should need a 5GB patch right out of the box), the company wants you to know that it sympathizes with your pain. In a chat with IGN, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was asked about the update, and while he maintained that it was both necessary and shouldn’t be all that jarring given our modern, Internet-enabled gaming industry, Iwata also offered his condolences for the inconvenience of the process. “Personally I think that users should be able to use all the functions of a console video game machine as soon as they open the box,” Iwata said. “So 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.”
It’s certainly nice to see a figure as important and powerful as Satoru Iwata empathize with the common gamer, but more intriugingly, it’s also wildly out of character for not just Iwata, but also Nintendo and a sizable portion of Japan’s traditional businesses as a whole. In the Land of the Rising Sun, it was long thought that a successful businessman should never admit fault, regardless of how obvious or damaging a mistake may have been. The idea was that by never publicly second-guessing one’s self, these businessmen would seem more confident and self-assured, and thus powerful.
Here in 2012 that sort of thinking seems wildly antiquated, but it’s only been in recent years that Nintendo has begun adapting to more modern business tactics. You’ll notice that we never received an apology for the abysmal failure that was the Virtual Boy, and Nintendo never once admitted that sticking with cartridge games for the Nintendo 64 while the rest of the industry purposefully moved toward compact disc-based storage solutions might have been a poor choice. Though this single Iwata comment might not necessarily be indicative of a larger shift in Nintendo’s thinking as a corporate whole, we’ve got our fingers crossed that maybe, just maybe, the Wii U has kicked off a new era for the company, in which it’s willing to listen to outsider input and consider what is best for its fans, instead of simply what’s best for Nintendo’s corporate appearance.