I’m a Nintendo fan, but I’m not a Nintendo fanboy. Or fanboi. Or apologist. Or homer. I like playing Zelda games and I like playing Fire Emblem games, and as long as those two franchises are Nintendo only, I’ll be a Nintendo owner. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it, and right now, I’m not happy because of a technical problem I haven’t experienced since 1983.
A couple days after Christmas, my Wii U Gamepad stopped functioning…partially. It’s range was never all that great—I couldn’t take it more than 15 feet away from the Wii U console without it losing its connection—but that was only a minor annoyance as it mainly affected off-TV play, which I rarely used. Now, however, the Gamepad can’t keep a connection if it’s moved more than two or three feet away from the console. And because my console is on top of the entertainment center, that makes any game that requires the Gamepad unplayable.
Researching “the connection with the Wii U console has been lost” problem, I’ve learned I’m not alone. There are quite a few complaints in Nintendo’s and various other gaming forums, with people suggesting everything from replacing the battery (the battery’s fine) to re-syncing the Gamepad (doesn’t help) to moving the Wii U away from an aquarium (what?). The only suggestion I found that made any sense was to call Nintendo, but you can imagine how that went.
I bought the Wii U on drop day. I’m out of warranty by a little more than a month. As such the friendly support lady explained Nintendo wants $90 to repair the Gamepad, plus shipping, I would assume; I didn’t get that far, having told her to go to hell when I heard $90 (albeit in a much more polite way…it’s not like this is her fault, after all). She then offered me a $25 discount on the repair. I told her to go back to hell (still in a much more polite way). I paid $350 for this thing. With the repair, I’m now looking at $450 to play a system that’s now selling for less than $300 because no one is buying it.
No thanks, Nintendo.
“But Kirk, you idiot,” you’re saying, “you’d rather it just sit there doing nothing and be out $350?”
Yes. I would.
Look, I like the Wii U. I’ve enjoyed some fine games on it, but this just seems pretty lame. With the Gamepad, Nintendo has created a system that forces a ridiculous repair cost on the controller, not the system, in order to use the system. When my Wii quit reading discs after three years or so, I was happy to pay $75 for the repair. Machines break down, after all, and three years seems a fair time for that.
But having to repair the controller? After just one year? And pay more for it than I did for the Wii console repair? It’s worse than when my Intellivision controllers went wonky on me back in the early ’80s. Those keypads were wired to the console, but even then you could order new circuit matrixes (at a fair price) to replace on your own. And the repair cost wasn’t 1/3 of a brand new system.
What Nintendo has done with the Wii U is create a system that has double the potential for fault, and they’ve limited your repair options. Knowing this, they should compensate with a fair warranty (three years seems logical), but they didn’t do that. Considering the number of complaints I’ve found regarding this issue—and anticipating it’s going to get worse very quickly as more Gamepad’s age—I have to wonder if Nintendo will be forced to issue a recall due to faulty design and have to repair the Gamepads for free.
Yeah, I’ll wait for that. And when it doesn’t happen, I guess I’ll just have to wait for a Wii U game that’s so great it’ll be worth the $140 I’ll have to pay to play it, what with the game price and repair cost. Looking at the upcoming Wii U release schedule, that would be…
Nothing? My son will be disappointed he can’t play the new Smash Brothers, but he’s not making the money in the house (and I’m sure I can pacify him with the 3DS version). Eventually there’ll be a new Zelda, but I’ve got a couple years to wait for that, and by then a totally new Wii U will probably cost $200 (or $50 on ebay). I’m sure it’ll be an even longer wait for the Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem crossover that Nintendo announced then promptly forgot about.
They look tempting, but not $140 tempting. After all, it’s not like I don’t have other systems to keep me happy. I’ve got the 3DS, the Macintosh (be nice), and the iPad. And the truth of the matter is that my kids haven’t complained one bit about the loss of the Wii U because the iPad is their platform of choice anyway.
That, then, is perhaps the most telling problem of all. It’s not that the Wii U Gamepad is a faulty unit prone to malfunction, it’s that when it did malfunction, no one in my family cared.