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Nintendo releases first (of many, many) spring updates for Wii U to get the console in working order

Miiverse

Back in the early days of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, firmware updates could often more exciting than game releases. These early console firmware updates could sometimes wildly change the experience of using the console. Even now, some devoted gaming machines can gain whole new personalities thanks to an update (read: PS Vita). When it comes to the Wii U, those that purchased the system at release are no stranger to updates. They happened so often in the early weeks that it became a running joke among Wii U fans that their favorite new game was “update.” These updates did occasionally bring in new services, but for the most part they felt like laborious time sucks. 

This March, Wii U system updates are going to be particularly momentous, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as those updates will contain several long needed patches and services. At this point, the machine doesn’t even ship with its firmware pre-loaded, but each new update brings it closer to a base level of functionality that will give the Nintendo console a fighting chance. Wii U updates don’t just change the console; they bring it closer to being the console Nintendo promised. 

Wii U version 2.1.3 was released on Monday night. At just 30MB, the update is significantly smaller than the multi-gigabyte mandatory download awaiting new Wii U owners when they unbox the console, but it still takes longer than expected to download and install. We tested the update this morning and it took approximately five minutes before the machine restarted.

The update introduces only simple features, namely improved stability to the operating system and bug fixes. One fix in particular works with the recently released downloadable Bit.Trip Runner 2 from Gaijin Games – a bug with that game was causing the Wii U to crash.

This update is mortar, however, glue that will help Nintendo lay down more sizable bricks in the Wii U structure come April. The company said that next month it will release the update for Wii U that will introduce much needed new functionality. Included in the April release will be broad support for the Wii U Virtual Console, which is only offered in a limited capacity with promotional titles like F-Zero. It will also allow you to access Miiverse, Wii U’s social network, via your smartphone, although Nintendo still haven’t specified what phones will be supported.

Most significantly though, the April update will purportedly make the Wii U operate demonstrably faster than it currently does. Operating speed is so sluggish on Wii U that the company’s president Satoru Iwata has publicly apologized for it multiple times.

Nintendo has promised other functionality for Wii U like Netflix and DVR support in Nintendo TVii, but has not offered a specific timeline on when those features will be released. The Japanese console maker still has a long way to go before Wii U finally functions like the company said it would at E3 2012 and the console’s September 2012 debut.