Now, let’s make the Wii a real new generation game console.
Problem #1: Online service
It’s been promised since before last year’s E3, and yet all we have of the Wii’s online service are a few anemic channels and a web browser beta. At E3, we were told we’d be getting actual online-enabled games in “early 2007,” and I foolishly believed it. If Nintendo was referring to the stunted map-sharing abilities of Elebits, then they’ve reached a new low in “information management” (lying). In truth we won’t be getting online games until mid-year, and that’s only in regards to first party offerings. Third party developers won’t have full access to Wii’s online capabilities until next year.
At least we have a clear answer on when the Wii online system will kick off: June 25th, with Pokemon Battle Revolution. The game has already hit Japan, and to the infinite dismay of gamers everywhere, it requires the reviled friend codes. It has been speculated that this restriction comes from the fact that PBR connects to the DS Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. It makes sense as a theory; if the DS game has the friend code limit, then its bigger Wii brother has to follow suit to enable connectivity.
According to Gamespy, however, all Wii games will use friend codes. There you have it, straight from Gamespy themselves, the folks managing the Wii’s online service. The Wii will have the same counter-intuitive, exclusionary setup as the DS. You and your friends will have to swap codes for every online game you want to play a new together.
This is so idiotic and redundant that I can barely fit it in my head. The Wii already has an address book for swapping Miis, messages and emails, why not use it for online games across the board? Inputting my friends’ individual Wii numbers was irritating enough, why oh why do I have to use the damned friend codes?!!
I’m probably jumping the gun a bit—after all, we still don’t have any online games in the US. Still, those delays are a big part of the problem, and the sense of Nintendo’s lack of readiness and half-hearted effort are the writing on the wall. I think it’s clear, at least for now, that Nintendo is anything but serious about making the Wii a true online console. There is no community to be found here, people, just a list of confusing 12-digit codes. Until Nintendo implements some honest-to-god matchmaking and ditches their ultra-paranoid code system, gamers looking for some real online play should save their cash for a 360.
Problem #2: Severely limited storage options
I recently discovered the handiness of that little slot on the front of the Wii, the SD card docking slot that theoretically lets you expand the console’s storage capacity beyond the 512 MB limit. The issue here is the “theoretical” nature of that capacity. Yes, it is quite possible to copy your save games onto any compatible SD card, and even back up your Wii channels and Virtual Console games onto portable memory, but accessing them is another thing entirely.
For example, say I have a VC copy of Super Mario World saved to my SD card, but not on my Wii’s 512 MB of system memory. To play Mario World, it is necessary that I copy the game back onto my Wii’s system memory.
This isn’t a huge problem, but it takes time and seems to be an overly-complicated process on a console sold on its simplicity. I’m sure that with a firmware upgrade the Wii could access the VC games from SD cards as easily as from system memory. The problem deepens as we look at the hypotheticals.
Say I’ve filled that 512 MG of internal memory with channels and VC games, but Majora’s Mask, one of my favorite N64 games, becomes available for download. It’s a big game, but could easily fit onto a 2 GB flash card. With current limitations in place, however, the only way to play Majora’s Mask is to delete some of the games on my system memory, and then download Majora. All of this could be simplified by letting me download and play more VC games straight from an SD card.
It is nice that deleted games can be re-downloaded as many times as I want at no extra charge, but what about save files on those games? Should I sacrifice a long, difficult quest on, say, Chrono Trigger just so I can download and play Majora’s Mask?
The reason for this limitation is clear: Nintendo doesn’t want people swapping their SD cards among their friends and distributing free VC games onto an infinite number of Wiis. There are already restrictions in place that keep games downloaded to one Wii from being copied to another, so I couldn’t just fill up my SD card with VC titles and let my friend dump a load of free games onto his Wii. But can’t Nintendo just take the next logical step? I’m sure they could tighten up the DRM on the SD cards, or stamp each VC game with that individual Wii console code they love so much.
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