Tony's Time

Tony’s Time: Should We Worry About Wii U Online?

Wii U launches in exactly a month.  We’ve heard a lot about what’s going on with the system, but there’s one thing that’s been glaringly absent from discussions; what’s going on with the Wii U and online?  Most of the talk you hear is that those options are still being explored and there are no firm announcements by any developer out there.  Nintendo themselves aren’t talking about what’s going to happen with Wii U when it comes to online infrastructure.

We have a few things that we know for sure.  The Wii U will allow streaming video from a number of different services.  All of it will be concentrated in one service called TVii.  We know you’re going to have some sort of online communication system that will allow you to post messages about different games on the Miiverse service.  Some games have made announcements when it comes to what you’ll be able to do online with your friends.  Ubisoft has shown off some messaging systems inside ZombiU that will let you post messages, giving your friends hints about things in the game.  These are neat ideas but they’re small details about a system that is shrouded in mystery.

Now let’s get to some of the things that are concerning.  A month ago, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 producer Katsuhiro Harada displayed a lack of knowledge about the Wii U’s online capabilities.  This man is working on one of the premier fighting games and one of the biggest titles to be available early in the system’s life.  Here’s what he had to say:

Not quite sure at this point. I don’t fully understand it. We’re still working with Nintendo to find out about their network.

The game, at that time, was a couple of months away from release.  That’s the point in a development cycle where little details are being worked on.  Touch-ups to textures are being fixed and small systems are being added to the game.  That’s not the point where you express, in public, that you still don’t understand the online capabilities of a system that is supposed to be better than its predecessor.  If the online functionality hadn’t been implemented yet or was still being experimented with, that’s a cause for concern.

I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was caught somewhat off guard, or it’s a slight mistranslation, or that he just couldn’t talk about the system’s functionality.  Nintendo has a history of being overly secretive with their systems and games until the point they’re almost ready to be released.  There were things about the 3DS we were learning for weeks after the system was released.  Maybe that’s what going on here?

Now let’s take a look at a statement from someone working on an even more high profile game. Treyarch will be releasing Call of Duty: Black Ops II at the system’s launch. A Call of Duty game on a Nintendo system isn’t anything new. A Call of Duty game with online play for a Nintendo system isn’t anything new. What is new is this system is supposed to allow games to be feature consistent across all platforms. The company just announced the Call of Duty Elite service is going to be available for free to all players, however, Nintendo fans will not be getting the same treatment.

This comes from an article posted at Mercury News:

Third, though Elite is free to other platforms now, it’s not coming to Wii U … yet. Nevin Dravinski, producer Call of Duty Black Ops II, says that there is no current plans [sic] to bring it to Wii U at the moment. But he said Treyarch will come back to the issue again if there’s a huge demand for it on the system.

This is another mark in the concern column for me.  I don’t know if this is a function of the Wii U’s online capabilities, if this is a matter of development on the Wii U game being started after the other consoles or if Treyarch missing the mark on just what Nintendo owners want.  I think, especially with a game franchise like Call of Duty, Nintendo fans want everything that 360 or PS3 owners want.  Fans were overjoyed when online play was made available.  It was even better when updates were able to be rolled out for Wii owners, even if they were all done on the server and not on the client side.

We’re a month away from the launch of the system and this is a huge thing that needs to be explained.  Nintendo said there will be a Wii U Nintendo Direct soon and maybe some of these concerns will be addressed.  I really hope the Wii U will end up being feature similar to the 360 and the PS3, if not better.  They’ve made some strides since the Wii was released but we need to know what’s going on.

1 reply »

  1. I wouldn’t worry about it too much, Tony. The fact of the matter is, Xbox Live isn’t the de facto benchmark it used to be. I think a lot of people give too much credence to online play in general; while a solidly built system with friends list and group chat are certainly nice, in this day and age with IM, Twitter and Skype it’s not a necessity.

    Personally I like what’s been shown so far, and the fact of the matter is I’m not paying $60 a year to do it, which is nice. What I’d like to see Nintendo do is make a push with digital sales. I don’t own a PS3, but a lot of the deals that have been cropping up on PSN are appealing.

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