The majority of this post was written as part of a survey for Nintendo about my first impressions of the system (some parts were edited or added later). Since writing it, I’ve finally been able to play the device and it’s quite fun. But, I’m still furious about the transition of purchased content from the Wii to the Wii U and will unlikely ever be happy unless Nintendo provides a way to restore lost functionality to particular games and/or allows for the re-transfer of content back to a Wii (highly unlikely). I look forward to seeing new games for the system, but will rarely, if ever, purchase digital content from Nintendo again due to their poor legacy support.
I have rather mixed feelings about the Wii U. I love the GamePad and am really excited about the potential for new gameplay elements (as I always loved the GameBoy to GameCube connectivity of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles), but am a little disappointed in a number of execution missteps with a new system and legacy support.
First, having to download an update that takes over two hours just so that you can have full access to all the features of the Wii U when you take it out of the box is ridiculous. If a product isn’t ready, don’t ship it. Forcing someone to essentially download an entirely new software/firmware to their system before they can even begin using all of its features is ludicrous. Especially when that update loses connection repeatedly during the download. Thankfully, it picks up where it leaves off in the download rather than starting over or I would have simply returned the system.
Second, the transfer of content from the original Wii to the Wii U is clunky, slow, and treats original Wii owners like criminals. On top of that, it’s dangerously simple to lose all of your content that you paid money for during the transfer process. Since transferring the content to the SD card removes it from the original Wii and disables it from being used on that Wii entirely, if something happens to the SD card after, or if the Wii U crashes during import, all of your content is not only lost, but completely inaccessible. I was fortunate that, during my import of content, my Wii U only froze up while it was downloading a WiiWare title, which appears to be the final step in transferring content. Thankfully, my purchase history and save data had already been copied and I didn’t lose anything. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a horrible way to transfer content when companies like Microsoft can simply access your online purchase history tied to a specific account and allow you to specify a new console as yours and begin downloading your games to it. While this does allow the old console to continue playing games that were on it, it still prevents them from being redownloaded if they are deleted, thus ensuring that a person can’t simply purchase a new console and reliably sell their old one with all of their content intact, essentially “pirating” their content (which is, I’m sure, the primary reason why the Wii U’s transfer is so ridiculous).
Further, I’m a longtime Nintendo fan and I’ve always likened Nintendo to my other favorite company, Apple. However, the Wii to Wii U transfer is decidedly un-Apple and worse, it’s anti-consumer. Ignoring the fact that Apple lets you use purchased content on multiple devices for free, Nintendo has made the entire process such a hassle that it is easier for most users to simply repurchase the content they most want on their Wii U. Especially as they can continue to use the original Wii afterward. As it stands now, my Wii is completely unnecessary, since I can’t do anything with it except play Wii and GameCube games. Which means, it will only ever be used to play GameCube games, which is a huge waste of its awesome potential. On top of that, I’m not even sure I want to play any of my WiiWare and Virtual Console games on my Wii U as my only controller options are the Wii Remote and Classic Controller, which limits my gameplay options and restricts me to 4 players rather than 5 for TurboGrafx-16 titles and 8 for some WiiWare titles. This is beyond ridiculous and just highlights how poorly legacy support was implemented. Rather than forcing me to load an entire Wii emulator (or is it virtualized? not that it matters from a usability standpoint), legacy content should have simply been accessible from the Wii U menu and without all this painful jumping through hoops that leaves your original Wii a shell of what it used to be.
I truly hope that Nintendo has learned a valuable lesson from this system launch and recognizes that they are no longer playing in a world where they set the example and the rest of the industry follows. Microsoft is a terribly managed company that makes boneheaded decision after boneheaded decision, yet they have handled their console upgrade/transfer business significantly better than Nintendo has. Apple doesn’t even make consoles, yet they are consistently outselling and outperforming the competition because they know that what is most important is making life easier for their customers and treating them like responsible individuals. I have never pirated content for my iPhone or iPad, despite how easy it is to do so. Nor have I done so for my Xbox, even though it’s only slightly less difficult to transfer content to a new Xbox and sell the old one with a bunch of games still installed. I am not a criminal. Don’t treat me like one.
Third, the very day after installing a several gigabyte update just so I could use the damned thing, a new system update was required before I could play disc-based games. This one was a little over 2 gigabytes in size, so it only took a little over an hour to download and never disconnected during the process. But it didn’t change the fact that the system I purchased was unplayable for 2 straight days because I had to wait for system updates each time I sat down to play it.
I am a longtime, and loyal, Nintendo customer. Unfortunately, due to the current state of affairs for a Wii to Wii U owner, I may not be able to say that for much longer. As it stands now, I highly recommend that anyone purchasing a Wii U leave their Wii content intact so that it remains a useful piece of hardware and simply ignore the Wii Menu channel on the Wii U except to play Wii games. You can always transfer your content in the future if you so desire.