Nintendo recently pushed out an update to the Wii U that gives it a new ability: it can now display advertisements to you. Yeah, you heard me, it displays ads… on the Wii U Gamepad.
Let’s start with the update though. One evening I had about 20 minutes to play some game or other before bed so I turned on the Wii U. I was greated with a screen that told me I needed to wait for an update to install, and under no circumstances should I turn off the power (I have often wondered what would happen if we experienced a power failure during such an update).
The update ended up taking almost 40 minutes. There was no way for me to cancel, no way for me to delay it, no options. I was simply forced to endure the update. I am (almost) sure there is a preference for me to disable auto updates, but I find Wii U’s preferences a little hard to navigate — AND I’M A DEVELOPER. Settings should NEVER be that hard. And it’s not even the point. This is a REALLY bad default. My gaming console is for my fun and enjoyment. Nintendo should NEVER get in between the user and the game they want to play. It’s a really bad experience. I was not able to play the game that night because I ran out of time waiting for the update. It’s. a. GAMING CONSOLE. No update is so important that you should disrupt the user experience. Ideally what should have happened is there should have been a dialog for the update: “would you like to install now, or later when you’re sleeping?” Later would have been fine. A simple dialog would have been fine. But it seems Nintendo is not interested in user experience. They are apparently clueless.
This is actually not the first time this has happened to me with a Wii U update. It has happened at least twice before over the amount of time I have had the console.
So, getting back to the ads, I quickly discovered in the subsequent days that among some other new features that are fine, there was a new one that is decidedly not fine. The Gamepad will randomly display ads. Sure they’re for Nintendo’s own products (for now), but this is not okay with me. Once, the Gamepad even woke itself up (I’m not making this up) while I was in the room to display an ad.
Hear me well, this. is. not. okay! The Wii U is a premium product. Nintendo has always positioned themselves as makers of premium products and they charge a premium price. I paid a premium price for the console and the games that go with it. I did not buy a device that is ad supported. I have spent several hundred dollars for a premium experience. I don’t think it’s asking too much that my premium device not be plastered with ads, even ads only for products from the maker of the device.
Premium companies do not turn their premium devices into ad supported platforms. Period. This sort of behavior is way beneath Nintendo. Yes, Nintendo is not doing very well right now, but if they think turning their premium device into an ad business to try to sell more of their premium products is going to get them out of this hole, they are seriously deluded.
Can you imagine if Apple plastered an add on an iPhone or iPad screen that required you to click a button to acknowledge before you could use your device? No, the answer is you can not imagine it because Apple would never EVER do it. And if they did, the pundits would finally be right in declaring that Apple’s demise was near.
This is the first time that I’ve seriously doubted that Nintendo can recover from the mess they’ve gotten themselves in. Because instead of doing the right things to get out of the mess, they’re digging the grave deeper and it saddens me. I grew up with Nintendo and I’ve loved their products. I even, to a degree, love the Wii U. It’s a great product that is not doing well because of Nintendo’s continued, brazen stupidity. I’m on Nintendo’s side. Now I want them to be on my side.