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Friday, December 15, 2006

Nintendo's Numerous Headaches

Despite being in an enviable position sales wise, Nintendo just recalled 200,000 chargers [NewLaunches] and a worldwide offer for replacement of all Wii straps [Engadget]. This is, of course, in addition to the existing patent lawsuit over the Wii controller.

Seperately, these don't seem terrible. I'm assuming the Wii straps are cheap - so it's hard to tell just how costly that kind of recall will turn out for Nintendo. The chargers probably cost more - but it's the kind of recall any responsible company should be prepared to handle. And I think I speak for lots of people when I say I hope the patent lawsuit gets dropped like a bad prom date. Still, together this feels like a dark cloud over the company. This is not a good time to have any consumer confidence dropping because a parent heard the Wii's straps could snap and break a window. Parents hate broken windows.

Tack on Curmudgeon's look at how much batteries will cost you playing the Wii and Greg's note that Zelda chews them faster than ever and it seems a little shine gets removed from the console. I'm assuming that playing in a battery free mode isn't an option for the Wii. Batteries were personally my biggest complaint with my first GBA - it seemed like I was constantly putting batteries into the thing.

Still, it's hard to see all these little issues mounting much of a slowdown to Nintendo's breakneck sales. If anything - it's worthy to note for what will hopefully come down the pipe in reaction to these problems. Namely a better strapped and rechargeable Wii remote (and new remotes may already be better strapped). In some ways - the Wii's controller is the console. It's the selling point. So Nintendo will do what Nintendo often does best and release a 2.0 version which makes you wonder why you bought the first one so darn early.

It's something that Microsoft and Sony could learn from. I still think the 360 is terribly designed since reports of it being noisy, hot and blinking red still aren't terribly uncommon. Even Sony haters seem hard to disagree with the notion that the PlayStation 3 is at least engineered properly for the living room. Where's a second revision 360 which might take advantage of redesign concepts and new manufacturing to be smaller and cooler? Likewise, where's our PSP 2? UMD is failing as a movie format and it's inefficient as a game format. As a company, Sony needs to prove it can focus on games first and stop trying to burden their hardware with media options consumers haven't even asked to have.

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Anonymous said...

While I don't think the current problems are enough to slow down the Wii, I know one thing that my brother told me that sounds scary, at least in concept. Hopefully some warnings come up when you boot a Wii, but my brother told me that the controller can interfere with pacemakers. (This came up because our Dad just got one.) I'm telling you, one dead father on Xmas day and Nintendo's in for a world of hurt. Hopefully the chance of a bad interaction is very, very remote. After all, I think the same is supposed to be true of microwave ovens, and those are everywhere.

When you said:

I still think the 360 isn't terribly designed...

Did you get the negation wrong? Not sure. Anyway, I've been told (by a source who would know) that the Xbox 360 has already had two revision (to cut production costs). If they're still noisy and hot, then it would appear there are other issues more pressing to Microsoft.

Also, as I've blogged recently, the Memory Stick media sizes and prices are such that it makes sense for Sony to transition to games that can be run from UMD or installed on a memory stick. I think you could make a transitional program like that to ease the move to an all-fixed-media PSP. At least, that's what I'd like to see happen. If they have a better idea, let's hear it.

Josh said...

I did get the negation wrong - thanks for the catch. I shouldn't try and write so much in the morning :)

I think the last anecdote I heard about 360 redlighting was when someone was buying a PS3 and the display 360 was completely crashed. Now I'll admit - that's possibly not fair on two accounts ... 1) display machines get abused regularly and store conditions aren't really living room conditions and 2) who knows what revision a display machine might be.

Still, simply not crashing isn't the most ambitious design goal :)

That's interesting about the Wii v pacemakers. I wonder what the prevalence might be. I think it was Weefz o Average Gamer who had some cardiac know-how (from a Lost post of all things) - might be able to shed some light on it.

Anonymous said...

Clarification on the wrist strap:

They aren't issuing a recall, but they are offering to replace them. Also, the consoles shipping now all sport the heavier duty strap.

Josh said...

Thanks, C, I updated to try and be a bit more accurate.

Greg Tannahill said...

The battery issue isn't too significant, I think. When playing games that don't use the controller speakers, it looks like you get a comparable lifespan to my wireless PS2 controller (which uses three AA batteries instead of the two in the Wiimote). I think you just have to be wary of buying games that insist on pushing half the soundtrack out of the Wiimote.

And judging by what Nintendo's done with the GBA and DS, I think that within the year you're going to see new Wiimotes come out which pack mobile phone-style rechargable batteries.