Wii U launches in North America: firmware woes, Miiverse ‘hacked’, but indie devs delighted

Reggie Fils-Aime at the Wii U's North American launch

Reggie Fils-Aime at the Wii U's North American launch

It’s a little over 24 hours since Nintendo’s Wii U was released in North America, celebrated by a launch at the publisher’s Nintendo World store in New York where Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime presented the first Wii U console sold to Brooklyn resident and Nintendo aficionado Isaiah Triforce Johnson, who began queuing for the hardware 27 days before its arrival. Johnson’s evident enthusiasm aside, the console hasn’t enjoyed such a positive response among critics and consumers, and it’s fair to say the launch hasn’t passed by without a few large hiccups.

Chief among these is the consternation surrounding a substantial day-one firmware update, initially (and erroneously) reported by the likes of Geoff Keighley on Twitter as a 5GB download, perhaps owing to reports that the 8GB model is left with only 3GB of usable flash memory – not enough to download Nintendo Land from the eShop without an external storage solution. It seems now that the update is closer to 1GB in size, though many users have reported it taking an hour or more to complete.

As the size would suggest, the update was significant, adding Nintendo’s in-built social network, the Miiverse, as well as the eShop, an internet browser, and backwards compatibility for Wii games. That, in part, explains the lukewarm hardware reviews from sections of the US press, who were unable to review such key features before launch. “As craftsmen, [our engineers] want to use every last possible moment to continue to make things the best that they can possibly be,” Nintendo’s Bill Trinen told Polygon, adding: “If it’s live the moment [players] bring the system home, that’s what really matters.”

More concerning is the news that turning the power off during the update was causing serious technical issues, with some reporting their new console had been rendered unusable. One assumes the console alerts consumers to the dangers of powering down while an important update is taking place, but stories of ‘bricked’ consoles will be harmful to Wii U’s early sales. Given Nintendo’s desire to build up a head of steam before new hardware reveals from Microsoft and Sony, this must be exactly the kind of problem the Kyoto company was dreading.

That was far from Wii U’s only launch problem. NeoGAF user Trike managed to happen across a debug menu within Nintendo’s in-built social network, the Miiverse. From this menu he was given access to administrator controls, with the ability to delete accounts, change passwords, and access a series of sub-forums with game titles, including ‘Yoshi’s Land Wii U’, ‘Soul Hackers’, and generic ones for ‘resident evils’ [sic] and ‘metal gear solid’.

By the time Trike had finished reporting his findings to the popular US forum, Nintendo Of America had informed Wii U owners via its Twitter account that: “Some may be having problems connecting to the service. We are in the engine room getting it fixed!” This coincided with Trike no longer being able to access this hidden menu. A quick fix this may have been, but such news is troubling nonetheless.

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