Nintendo's Fils-Aime unfazed by Wii U's launch hiccups

The launch of the Nintendo Wii U probably could have gone smoother. Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, discusses why he's confident the company will iron out the wrinkles.
While the Wii U's early sales numbers are nothing to sneeze at, the launch as a whole probably could have gone smoother. A large, mandatory system update upset many users. There were sporadic system outages. And some anticipated features were not available on day one (though several of those have launched since). While the company's global president has apologized for some of the bumpy parts – specifically the hour-plus long mandatory system update – Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, takes a different approach. While regrettable, he said in a talk with Gamasutra, the last-minute release of the patch was necessary, so the team could ensure the online functionality worked as smoothly as possible. "Nintendo developers want to make sure that the very best product is available to consumers," he said. "That creates a dynamic where our developers are working on elements until the very last point possible. That's why the system update was required on Day One - and this is quite similar to what's happened with other consumer electronic products." The update won't be built into the system for a while, either. Fils-Aime said that only after the patch has been on the market for a few months will Nintendo incorporate it into the firmware that ships with the system. That means it won't be until sometime in early (and perhaps spring) 2013 that Wii U buyers won't have to download and install a massive file.

Silencing the critics

The update and other problems were accompanied by something else that was unusual for Nintendo: Less than glowing critical reviews. While many spoke of the system's potential, few were effusive in their praise of the Wii U as it stands now. Fils-Aime doesn't seem worried by the critics, though. "Reviews of a system or review of a game really come down to the quality and capability of the reviewer," he said. "There has been a range of comments and commentary. But when I go on Miiverse and see how consumers are reacting to games like ZombiU or … Call of Duty, that tells me we're doing something very, very positive. Similarly, when I go on other consumer social networks and see other consumer reaction that is positive, I know we've done well." The Day One downtime of the Miiverse was another unwelcome launch day surprise. Initially, Nintendo pointed to overcapacity as the reason, telling fans on Facebook: "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!" That led to fears that when tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of new owners open up their Wii Us on Christmas morning, there could be another, more substantial system failure. Fils-Aime, though, said the Miiverse problems were not solely a matter of too many people trying to log on at once. (He would not go into details about what other factors contributed to the problem, however.) Come Christmas morning, he noted, Nintendo is confident there won't be a repeat of the launch troubles. "Without getting into a lot of technical details, the Miiverse [problem] was not purely driven by capacity," he said. "That gives us confidence that come Christmas morning, those servers will not be challenged in the same way. Come Christmas morning, the Wii U will be available globally. We know there will be a lot of consumers utilizing their Wii U for the very first time. So we're working very hard to make sure the initial customer experience is a good one." That's not to say the move to online has been a completely smooth one. Fils-Aime noted the company's online ambitions do have a learning curve. "Every time we launch a new system, there are significant challenges," he said. "There's everything from supply to making sure the new offering meet our expectations. In the digital, connected services area, much of what we're doing is groundbreaking, so we are having to learn as we go to make sure the consumer has the very best experience possible." Ensuring that has resulted in some delays – the most visible of which is Nintendo TVii. While it missed its touted launch day bow, Fils-Aime re-confirmed the feature will release sometime in December. "On launch day for us, Nintendo TVii wasn't at a point where we wanted it to be," he said. "It was not the compelling innovative product we wanted it to be and we needed it to be."

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