Ben Kuchera

The incredibly true story of how I bricked my Wii U

The incredibly true story of how I bricked my Wii U

The Wii U launch hardware required a substantial update before gamers could take their systems online or purchase games from the eShop. The download took a significant amount of time, and there were reports of players becoming impatient, unplugging their systems to stop the download in order to just play a game, and destroying their system. Powering down your Wii U during an update bricks the hardware, and there’s nothing to be done except for sending the system back to Nintendo for repair.

“Wii U owners, please do not power down or unplug your system while downloading updates,” Nintendo tweeted during all this. “Doing so may cause damage to your Wii U.” The rest of us thought we weren’t silly enough to do anything so thoughtless, and the world continued to spin in its merry circle.

So what does it take to brick a system? You just need to get distracted. This is how I killed my Wii U.

Time for an update!

Bad things happen when you’re multitasking. I opened up the eShop to purchase a game (Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, if you must know) and noticed that there was a required update. No big deal; I told the system to begin downloading the update, placed the GamePad down on the table, and the system left my mind as I went on to run my daily errands.

Later on in the day my wife told me she saw an error message on the GamePad, and that I should check the system to see what was up. I figured that the system had lost connection to the network, and the download needed to be started again. I’ll note at this point that my Wii U lives on the nightstand in our bedroom, so I can play Mario before bed using the GamePad. I didn’t even have the HDMI cable connected, as I was using the system without a television at all.

Cue ominous, dramatic music for that poor decision.

Hours later I return to the system, curious about the error message, but the GamePad’s battery had run down in the meantime. I go to plug it in, only to realize that all the plugs near the bed have been taken up. No worries, I had just bought a new power strip to fix this issue, so I grab that, unplug everything, install the power strip, and plug everything back in.

If you’ve been paying attention, you can see where this all went to shit. The system was stuck on the error screen during the update, I had no way of seeing it without a television, and I briefly unplugged the system to install the power strip so I could charge the GamePad to see the error message. The system didn’t stand a chance.

So what’s next?

When your system is bricked the red LED blinks blue twice when you try to turn it on, and then goes back to red. That’s all it can do. Technical support told me to try unplugging the system for two minutes to reset the hardware, and then try again. No dice. The other trick consisted of holding down the power button for six seconds. That didn’t do anything.

So I’m stuck with a shipping label to return my system. It’s going to take around a week to repair the unit and ship it back, and I’ve been assured that my data is safe, although I may need to re-download some of my purchased games. This sort of puts a wrinkle in my coverage plans, however, and I was really looking forward to playing the Sonic racing game.

“This is what scares me, that outlet is wired to the light switch,” my wife told me when I explained what had happened. “It’s scary to think you could have been updating your system, and I kill it by turning off the lights.” I smacked my forehead when she said that; I didn’t even think about the possibility of accidentally flipping the switch during an update.

So yes, this is totally my fault, and I hope at least you get a chuckle out of my bad luck. But make sure you’re ultra-aware of your system while updating, and make sure there is no interruption of power on Christmas morning when you’re updating your system for the first time. I thought I had been careful, but the sequence of events completely snuck up on me. Now I’m left with no Wii U, a stack of games I can’t play, and a trip to UPS in front of me.