In the era before the Internet, new game console launches were accompanied by scant television news coverage and traded anecdotes between friends and family that happened to get their hands on whatever new machine was making the rounds.
Now when a video game console launches, it comes with millions of testimonials from critics, pundits, fans, and consumers offering up their opinion on every personal blog, social network, and comments section across the web. The result is that every blemish, imperfection, and defect in the initial run of consoles is scrutinized in painstaking detail. Nintendo’s Wii U, released on Sunday, has received decent reviews for its peculiar tablet controller but a veritable drubbing due to technical problems. Chief among them: A mandatory firmware update is casuing major problems for Wii U out of the package.
As previously reported, the Wii U requires new owners to download updated software for the machine as soon as it’s activated in order to take advantage of its many Internet-based features, including access to the online social and gaming network Miiverse. The software in question is substantial, approximately 5GB of data. The downloading, installation, and updating process takes more than two hours to complete according to reporters like Ben Fritz of The Los Angeles Times. The drawn out process is prompting some Wii U owners, suspecting that something is wrong to unplug the console or power it down during the process. Unfortunately doing so irreparably breaks, or “bricks,” the Wii U.
At this point in time, it’s not unreasonable for Nintendo to expect consumers not to deactivate a console during a firmware update. Every PC operating system, smartphone, tablet, and gaming console provides some variation on the warning, “Do not reset or power down the machine during a software update.” That said, it’s unusual for Nintendo to release a consumer device lacking such substantial and crucial software. Why aren’t networked apps and services like Miiverse and the eShop included in the software pre-installed on the console?
Nintendo’s accustomed to these sorts of launch hiccups. That users are breaking their consoles due to impatience is hardly as big of a PR fiasco as having many users injuring themselves and breaking televisions due to over-enthusiastic sessions of Wii Sports.