Nintendo Wii U Launch Hindered by Software Updates, Missing Features

The Nintendo Wii U launch got off with a bang last night, with a midnight celebration in the Big Apple.

In the ensuing hours, sales for the new gaming console have been brisk, with some stores reporting that inventory has been sold out. Others are predictably trying to sell the hardware on eBay for above-market prices.

But not everything has gone as smoothly as Nintendo would have liked for its first console launch in six years. And there’s no real-world button that will allow Nintendo to restart this day over again.

In widespread reports online, customers are saying that they are experiencing long waits for mandatory software updates, and that some of the device’s most notable features, including the company’s social network, called Miiverse, are not working.

What’s more, not all of the video services are launching as expected. Nintendo said on Friday that Amazon Instant Video and Hulu Plus would not be available at launch. Additionally, its own TVii service, which allows customers to access their TV guide from the GamePad controller and to change the channel from their set-top box using infrared technology, will also not be available. The Netflix app will be available immediately, with the rest coming in December.

A message on Nintendo’s Facebook page today warned that the Miiverse is over capacity. “Oops. So many Miis have jumped on Miiverse that some may be having problems connecting to the service. We are in the engine room getting it fixed!” the post said. The status update received more than 1,000 “Likes” and 300 comments in four hours.

Nintendo did not immediately reply to emails seeking comment.

The Miiverse problems, however, seem to be taking a backseat to the massive software update that all owners must install out of the box. Customers online are reporting hours-long download times, surely made worse by the number of people all trying to get it on Day One.

“The very first thing you need to do is download a system update that’s well over 1 gig in size. It took me 2.5 hours to get it,” wrote one reviewer on, adding that every single game also required an update. In general, he called the operating system and user interface slow. “Want to go to settings? 15 seconds. Want to visit Miiverse? Another 15 seconds. Want to click on a message in Miiverse? Yep, another 15 seconds. Everything is dreadfully slow.”

Kotaku reports that the download rates are reaching up to four or five hours, and that the firmware update could be as large as five gigabytes. The update is needed if players want to access online features, transfer data from another Wii, and visit the Miiverse.

Some first-day hiccups can be expected on launch days, and can be magnified by the fact that consumers are so excited to rip open the box and get started. It’s a situation that will likely be repeated Christmas morning, unless Nintendo acts fast to get more server capacity. Despite the disruptions, Nintendo is benefiting from the number of diehard fans eager to get their hands on the new console, the only new gaming hardware coming out this holiday season.

Today, two configurations became available for sale, including a basic set that costs $300, and a deluxe version that costs $350 and comes with more storage and the Nintendo Land videogame. A strong lineup of titles, including more than 20 games from many third parties, are also for sale.

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