Dabe Alan

The online problem: why tomorrow’s Wii U posts will be impressions and not reviews

The online problem: why tomorrow’s Wii U posts will be impressions and not reviews

Update: My system is updating right now. We’ll see how many features made it into the system day one.

Nintendo was very clear that they wanted the press to play with Wii U online functions such as Miiverse, Nintendo TVii, the eShop, and Wii U chat before we post our hardware reviews tomorrow. The systems sent out to the press included retail hardware, a selection of games, and a Wii U Pro controller. They could turn on and play games, and that’s about it. All the extra online features and functions would be added later with a software update.

It’s been fascinating to play with the system and see how it fits with the other consoles in my house, and to share my thoughts and feelings with the system, but the fact remains that right now it’s a shell. I can’t buy games through the eShop, nor can I test how online features work. I can’t read or leave messages for my friends using Miiverse. Nintendo TVii has actually been pushed back to December. Many of these games should have online or social functions included with the reviews, but we’ve been unable to try them for ourselves.

The system doesn’t work yet

The lack of pre-release online features hurts games like ZombiU that use the Wii U’s online features in novel ways. You should be able to leave and read messages from other players, and even run into the zombie versions of other human players and loot their equipment. Unfortunately reviews of the game will go live tomorrow without any of us being able to try those features for an appropriate amount of time. As of this writing we’re less than 10 hours away from the official launch of the system, and no one has been able to take their Wii U online.

This stuff is important. How exactly does your friend list work? How simple is it to input your credit card information to buy games? Is browsing the store comfortable and easy? These issues will go a long way in determining how much we enjoy or are bothered by the system through its life, and right now we have very limited information on how all of this will work. Even if the updates go live in the next few hours, or tonight, we’ll have had almost no time to add friends, experiment with the games, and get a sense for all how this works.

The press will be trying much of this stuff for the first time alongside players who are buying their systems at midnight. That is, of course, assuming the update is ready on time. Nintendo is cutting it incredibly close. We’ll all be testing the system at nearly the same time.

The takeaway is that no one can really review the system when the embargo drops. We can give impressions, share thoughts, videos and images. That’s it. It will be days, if not weeks, before anyone has been able to use the system and its online features enough to get a feel for whether they’re successful.

With features like Nintendo TVii getting delayed at the last moment (that feature will now go live in December) it’s very possible that Nintendo is actually working on the online components as we speak. Allowing the press to jump online before launch would have been a wonderful test of the system. Instead, we’re all going to be exploring Nintendo’s playground at the same time. The update will drop close to when the system is released, which means everyone, press or not, will be reporting on every feature, burp, and limitation. If the system can’t handle the stress and folds, it’s going to be a very public misstep.

The Wii U is coming in a matter of hours. Let’s hope that Nintendo is ready.