It sounds crazy that a high-profile electronic device with price tag starting at $300 would ask consumers to take its features on trust. Nintendo’s new console, the Wii U, did just that.
In an era in which online gaming and downloadable content almost became mandatory for every major release, Nintendo’s smash-success Wii (with 97 million units sold in the last six years) fell dangerously behind the curve. The Wii U, promised Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata, would fix that. He didn’t actually say how. Indeed, right up to the product launch, the game-publishing giant barely gave its customers any details on what the Wii U’s online experience might be like. It wasn’t until late afternoon the day before the console’s North American release that Nintendo even turned the feature on.
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Iwata and his company leveraged 30 years of nostalgia and customer loyalty against one big question mark. Now, finally, we’ve seen what’s behind the curtain.
Can the Wii U go online right out of the box?
Well, no. You need to download a day-one update to activate the online functions, and you might want to plan well in advance when you do. When the update finally went live Saturday (Nov. 17), the download progressed at the speed of continental drift … likely due to hundreds, possibly thousands, of prerelease Wii U consoles flooding Nintendo’s servers at once. All told, it took about 90 minutes to download and install the update. We shudder to think what might happen when several million people show up on launch day.
Is it worth the wait?
That depends on your expectations. And we’re still waiting … not everything’s active yet.
Does it support voice chat?
Not yet … just video chat through the GamePad controller’s camera. That will have to do for now, I’m afraid. The Miiverse community (explained in depth on Page 2) centers on game-centric message boards, too, which allow for typewritten or stylus-doodled posts.
We’re not still trading Friend Codes, are we?
No! You create your own Nintendo Network ID and link it to a Mii. You can friend people in the Miiverse by entering their ID or by sending them a friend request from their profile page, just like FaceBook. First, though, you’ve got to set up your Friend List, which can’t actually be done from the Miiverse. Your Friend List has its own top-menu icon.
What about game matchmaking?
This remains to be determined. Yes, games with online multiplayer have some sort of matchmaking, but many of these servers weren’t switched on until late in the evening on 11/17. We’ll update once we get a bit more time online and get a better feel for how well it works.
Does the Wii U have Achievements?
Sadly, no. Individual titles will have in-game, achievement-like milestones, just as a few did back on the Wii, but Nintendo did not include an over-arching Achievement/Trophy system in the Wii U’s design. As far as we know, they don’t plan to, either.
Go to Page 2 for a run-down on all the major features!