TechnologyTell

Another Reason You Shouldn’t Buy the Wii U: Faulty Gamepads

Sections: Consoles, Exclusives, Features, Opinions, Originals, Wii U

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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.

Wii U Gamepad connection

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.

Bayonetta 2?

X?

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.

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45 Comments

  1. Douche

    the man
    • I’m not sure how that’ll help, but I’ll see if Nintendo recommends that as one of the troubleshooting steps.

      Kirk Hiner
  2. I’ve not heard of any reports of faulty gamepads but I do think my range has gone down since launch. I used to use it in rooms up to 20ft and 2 walls away from the console with no problems. Now the same rooms still work but require me to be very still and the connection is not as stable. Still works fine for playing games on the toilet etc.

    You don’t need the gamepad to play most games so I am sure you can use it if you want to. Bayonetta 2 will be much better with the Pro controller. I would buy a Zelda bunduru, and take it back to the shop claiming there was no gamepad in the box and you feel so ripped off that you don’t want another Wii U.

    Jabba the Mutt
    • That’s pretty creative, Jabba.

      I hope your stability problem doesn’t get worse. For what it’s worth, I do have the Pro controller and can still play Wind Waker that way, although it’s annoying after having played it with the map right there on the Gamepad. When Bayonetta 2 rolls around, I’ll consider that option. The faulty Gamepad hurts Nintendo here, as it’s mostly their 1st party games that take full advantage of it. 3rd party games tend to not focus on it, so I’ll still be able to try some of those out…provided the Gamepad connection doesn’t eventually drop altogether.

      Kirk Hiner
  3. I don’t think that faulty control pads should be a reason not to buy a console, however i do think that when the company is at fault for a faulty product, they should repair it or replace it free of charge, if you or you family had been mistreating it, then things would be different it would be your fault and you should pay for it, but as this is a fault in the manufacturing, then its up to Nintendo to fix their own problems.

    If you aren’t willing to pay Nintendo’s extortionate repair prices, have you tried repairing it yourself or asking a tech savvy friend to have a look at it ?
    From what i know/understand, the Wii U’s game pad signal is sent and received via WiFi, so perhaps a cable has become loose, check this iFixit link for taking apart the game pad:
    http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Nintendo+Wii+U+GamePad+Outer+Case+Replacement/12826

    Onto Nintendo themselves, i think Nintendo have become extremely arrogant, they don’t listen to their fanbase, they ignore what their customers want and need, the company is doing itself great harm.

    GregoryRasputin
    • Thanks, Gregory. I’ll look into that. I wonder if monkeying around myself will affect the repair cost if I ever decide to go that route, though.

      Kirk Hiner
  4. I wonder if your gamepad actually broke. I’ve had this issue about half a dozen times since purchasing the Wii U and often thought that my gamepad was broken…until the issue randomly resolved itself. I believe the aquarium fix, randomly rearranging furniture has resolved the connection issue for me before. It’s a very frustrating issue.

    All in all, it seems like very faulty design from a company that use to be compared to Tonka when it came to the resilience of their hardware.

    Kaihaku
    • Some people in the forums I visited have reported that problem corrected itself after a while. I test it from time to time, but no luck so far.

      As for rearranging furniture, I didn’t make any adjustments before the issue presented itself, so that wouldn’t be cause. As for it being the solution, I’d hate to have to rearrange my living room every time the Gamepad goes down. It’s Nintendo’s problem, after all, not my interior decorator’s!

      * I don’t have an interior decorator, as evidenced by the appearance of those candle things in the upper right of the photo above.

      Kirk Hiner
  5. That is strange. Nintendo made its name with unparalleled support. For them to reverse course on that now is…odd.

    Have you checked for WiFi interference in the environment? I use WiFi Analyzer by farproc for Android, and it does an excellent job identifying interference by channel. If you are seeing strong interference, perhaps moving the controller will help. Sometimes just a foot or two makes a difference.

    Ivy
    • Thanks for the app suggestion. I did shut down the other Wi-Fi devices on the network, but no luck. That was my first thought, as I’d added an IPad mini to the network a day or two earlier, and thought that might have something to do with it. I’ll find an iOS app comparable to WiFi Analyzer and see what that reports.

      Kirk Hiner
  6. But if you say, a PS4 and the controller broke would it not cost you about the same to replace? Dualshock 4s are around £55 in the uk, Xbone controllers are probably more, and I’m sure many of them will be broken come next Christmas. It’s worth getting it repaired, when you look at all the games coming this year.

    Scott
    • Two comments about this. First, a standard controller is not as complicated as the Gamepad, and is therefore less susceptible to problems. Second, because the controllers are sold separately, and because third-party manufacturers are able to developer their own, the price comes down across the board…especially if you’re willing to buy one used. Used Wii U Gamepads on ebay start at around $150, judging from when I looked into it.

      Also, by having to send the Wii U Gamepad to Nintendo to repair it, you can’t play it during that period. Imagine being a few hours away from completing a game and suddenly you have to go without for a couple weeks. Worse if you have an entire family of gamers.

      But yeah, as new games for the Wii U are announced/released, I’ll have more incentive to have mine repaired.

      Kirk Hiner
  7. “I had a problem, and saw a handful of other people had the same problem, therefore no one should buy a wii u!”

    Yeah, sure, okay. I can feel your pain for your problem, but when you go spouting nonsense, then it’s much much harder to feel sorry for you.

    John
    • That’s okay, I’m not looking for sympathy! I’m doing fine with what I have, it’s just sad that Nintendo is now willing to put their customers in this situation. That’s the point of the article. I greatly enjoy(ed) my Wii U, but if you’re debating between systems, the potential for fault with the Wii U Gamepad is something to consider.

      As I mentioned in the article, though, I do feel this is a faulty design of the Gamepad that will continue to grow, and then there’ll be much more than just a “handful” of us.

      Oh, and you need to remove the quotes from your initial statement. That’s your slightly inaccurate summary of my article…it’s not a direct quote.

      Kirk Hiner
  8. So.. let me see if I get this right.. The game pad was going to cost you $90-25= $65 to get repaired.. A controller that has pretty much an HD screen in it. $65… Where as an xb1 controller oe ps4 controller if it broke you would just go out and buy a new one for $60-$70 or more…. and they are not as advanced as the Gamepad. I’m confused.. $65.. For The gamepad which you have had for over a year and has an HD screen compared to other systems that have less advanced controllers that are just as much or more. I’m sorry but this article and title just sounds like it’s trolling to me and irational.

    don
    • You’re right that the Gamepad does more, of course, and I like that about the system (Warriors Orochi Hyper was a blast to play with me on the TV and my son on the Gamepad…no split screen). But the drawback is that if the Gamepad breaks down, you’re:
      1. Unable to play the system during the repair.
      2. Spending upwards of $100 for the repair (would the tech support lady have offered the discount if I hadn’t at first refused?)
      3. Unable to buy third-party controllers at a greatly reduced cost (by the time PS4 and XB1 controllers are breaking down, you’ll be able to find replacements for $25 to $30, I’m sure, as you can now with the PS3 and the 360.
      I would like to ask, though, if you feel the Gamepad breaking down after one year is acceptable, since that’s what you seem to imply. You don’t expect more from Nintendo?

      Kirk Hiner
  9. More? I am wiiling to bet first of all other than you having to pay the $65 for repairs nintendo was going to pay for shipping if you had spent the time to talk to them and it would have been thourough UPS overnight. The repairs would have taken 1 day as they would have just sent you a replacement new one instead making the grand total wait time 3 days. I am also wondering if the gamepad is the problem or if you have other things interfearing with the signal? I agree that yes, nintendo should have other gamepads on the market by now but your argument and reasoning and reaction just seemes misguided and far overreacting.

    don
    • I didn’t cover this in the article, but will address it since you brought it up (and in case others in my situation are following along).

      1. Shipping may have been free, as I mentioned. I didn’t get that far, and I can’t recall if it was when I had my Wii repaired.
      2. They weren’t going to send me a replacement…they asked for the Gamepad to be shipped to them for repair, not replacement. I do remember that when I sent them my Wii for repair, it was gone for two weeks. Can’t say if it would’ve taken that long with the Wii U Gamepad.
      3. Before we even got to price, the woman said I needed to ship the Wii U AND the Gamepad. It was only after I explained the troubleshooting I’d already done that she said I likely wouldn’t have to send the Wii U, and she said in that case the repair will be $90. I wonder if it would’ve been more if I had to send both units.

      And by wanting more from Nintendo, I was wondering if you think it’s okay for a system to break down after one year of light to normal use? If so, I’m curious to see what other brands you tend to support where that sort of thing is the norm. My only other allegiances are to Apple and Old Spice, so I’m not used to products malfunctioning so soon.

      Anyway, the main point of all this is that despite this newfound lack of quality from Nintendo, they would already have my Gamepad and my money if there was anything I needed to play. Right now, there isn’t, and there’s nothing absolute on the horizon (although I accept that many will see Smash Brothers as a need-to-play game).

      Kirk Hiner
  10. Funny.. I was actualy going to put an apple comment in my last reply. Anyways. I went through 3 WiiU’s at launch before getting one that worked. A friend has gone through 2 XB1s.. Another has had.. well about 10 PSP’s at this point and all of them take good care of their products. Also lets not forget the red ring of death on the 360′s, the scratches from the ps3.. and well.. there is a list from every product. Regardless things are going to happen. Frustration is understandable. I find it odd that you switch from the hardware to “need to play” games. I can make arguments for that but don’t see the need unless you would like. It just sounds like you are more … scorened than anything at this point. I hope you find what it is you are looking for but don’t be too dejected. No company is perfect. Saddly regardless of it being Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft.. they all have there flaws.

    don
    • Dude, if that’s true about all those faulty systems, you and your friends are most unlucky gamers I’ve ever heard of! I had a SEGA Genesis and Nintendo GameCube that never broke down on me. The Wii quit reading discs once in its lifespan (and still works). The article mentions the Intellivision keypads. None of my handhelds have EVER caused me a problem.

      So, I guess it’s just a matter of what we’re used to. I’m used to Nintendo being trouble-free. But the issue here is that Wii U has two key components that can fail, making it twice as likely something major can go wrong and that will required servicing, as opposed to just replacing.

      “Need-to-play games” is subjective, yes. My tastes differ from that of many, I guess…I’m a JRPG guy at heart. When the Wii died, I was in the middle of Xenoblade Chronicles. Not only did I send it in for repair right away, but I borrowed my father-in-law’s system so I wouldn’t have to wait for the return in order to play the game.

      Anyway, I wouldn’t say scored or dejected…it’s not like they did this to me (and us) on purpose. I’d say surprised, and a bit sad at where Nintendo’s at with their console right now.

      Kirk Hiner
  11. I never had a problem with my Wii U GamePad. This is not to say that others haven’t. As far as I’m concerned, I think the GamePad is one of Nintendo’s best controllers yet!

    J Money
    • That you, Justin? Good to hear from you!

      Yeah, I like what the Gamepad brings to some games (I gave a few examples above). But I still argue that considering it’s such a complex unit, there should’ve been a better warranty…or at least an option to not use Wi-Fi to connect the Gamepad to the Wii U system.

      I also don’t know of anyone personally who shares my problem, but in all honesty, I can count the number of Wii U owners I know on one hand…and half of them are on the GamerTell staff. I will say I had no problem finding people with the same problem on numerous forums. None of your readers have mentioned it?

      Kirk Hiner
  12. for JRPG’s I’d go with the 3DS.. Bravely Default, Crimson Shroud, Unchained Blades and so.. so many more. My wii went out right at 6 years. Anyways… Is the gamepad and WiiU really 2 seperate devices? Don’t get me wrong, I do feel Nintendo is misguided in some areas at this time.. just not with the Gamepad. I think the way they are handeling that overall is just fine. Where I do feel they are misguided at is the way they veiw their audiance. They seem to strugle the most in finding that line between the adults who play their games and systems, the families and the children. Just look at there advertising and many comments from Reggie and you can tell that they are often not sure who they are targetting their games for or if they care about who is playing their games at all. This is dishartening because more often than not they feel the way to solve everything is to put out a Mario game and everyone will be happy. Sony… I can make arguments about as well same with Microsoft so don’t think it’s just nintendo. Anyways. I can understand the frustration.. I just don’t think the Gamepad issue is that major of one. Talk to them. See is they can lower the cost any more or will at least pay for shiiping. Get it fixed.

    Don
    • I’m right with you on the 3DS. Playing the Bravely Default demo now and really enjoying it, and Fire Emblem is always on hand. I have no issues with the 3DS at all.

      And by two separate devices, I mean the Wii U and the Gamepad are both complex units prone to trouble, much moreso than a system and a regular controller.

      Nintendo is confused about the Wii U, I agree. When they announced it, they seemed to be targeting hardcore gamers. But some of those games haven’t materialized, and when those that did didn’t sell well, it seems developer balked at the notion of adult gamers taking the Wii U seriously. So, we’re stuck with a higher end system with a complex controller for developers to navigate and no real target audience for the games…and that means a lot of dead time between major launches. So, what’s the incentive on paying the money to get the Gamepad fixed right now?

      Kirk Hiner
  13. Bought my Wii U in May of last year. I can honestly say that I’ve had none of the issues that you’ve presented in your article. The battery life is my only complaint. In fact this is the first time I’ve ever heard of someone having these issues that you’ve mentioned. Seems like you’re pretty unlucky.

    uzavictor
    • I do expect the problem to start surfacing for more users pretty quickly. We’ll see.

      Kirk Hiner
  14. How many hours did you plug in before experiencing the problem. I’ve clocked in about 600 hours thus far.

    uzavictor
  15. Forgot my ‘?’ after the first sentence.

    uzavictor
  16. It might “only be” $65, but that doesn’t change the fact, that a consumer should not have to pay for a manufacturers fault.

    Also $65 is a lot of money for some people.

    GregoryRasputin
  17. I suppose the worst they could do is refuse to fix it, because you opened it yourself.

    GregoryRasputin
    • Yeah, I can’t imagine they would refuse, but could charge extra for any physical damage I may cause. I certainly wouldn’t open it if it were still under warranty, as that would rightfully void the warranty.

      Kirk Hiner
  18. Sadly I seem to be in the very same boat as you. My warranty just expired and sure enough, I’ve had the exact same problems. Been putting off calling Nintendo about it, and now hearing how much this is going to set me back I really just want to sell the system. I think at this point though, I’ll try out the pro controller option while waiting for a Nintendo to acknowledge the problem. I’ve been a life long Nintendo supporter, but this Wii U has been one problem after another. Pretty disappointing, hopefully Nintendo finds a way to fix this.

    MHunterMalek
  19. Same issue, bought the new lego movie videogame (very fun btw) and 2 days into it the pad keeps looking signal. Seems to work right up at the system but, if you move at all forget it. Called Nintendo as well and like everyone else I’ve read online same price quoted to me except no discount. Free shipping there and was told by the guy it would be 2 -3 weeks atleast. Nintendo has gone downhill. Always been a diehard Nintendo girl but, thinking about giving that up. So sad. Great article btw glad to see I’m not alone in this frustration.

    AmberT
    • Thanks for the compliment, Amber, but this is exactly what I was afraid of…this problem will start surfacing for more and more users, leaving a lot of angry (former) Nintendo fans behind. I still haven’t bothered to get mine fixed, as it’s not worth the repair cost at the moment, and I’m not convinced doing so would help the Gamepad last beyond another year. I’m also not convinced the Wii U isn’t already a doomed system, so I’ll likely just bide my time until I see what Nintendo rolls out next.

      Kirk Hiner
  20. Agreed, my fear is I replace it and the same issue arises. We never really used it that often and I think that is how this goes, we started using it a lot lately and now it acts up. Maybe it isn’t about time frame of purchase but about activity. Apparently it’s lifespan is very short. I’m very disappointed in Nintendo, they even tried to tell me my 20 gallon fish tank is the issue, although the system has been in the same spot for over a year and so has the tank.

    AmberT
    • I saw some people comment on fishtank interference, and I agree with your assessment on the issue. Nintendo recommended I try moving the Wii U away from possible interference, which I’d already done; but even if it had worked, that’s not a solution. The problem arose with no changes in the environment, so adjusting the environment is not an answer. Fixing or replacing the faulty Gamepad at no (or minimal) cost is the answer.

      Kirk Hiner
  21. Ok I just wanted to post an update for those still having problems. Over the weekend, I went out and bought the Wii U Pro Controller, and guess what? Same problems! After about 10 minutes the console just shut off, and I noticed the power light was blinking red. This got me thinking, perhaps we all have the wrong idea about this. The problem isn’t the Gamepad itself, but the console! So I searched some stuff online and came across this thread : http://techforums.nintendo.com/message/82397 : Sure enough, some people were having the same problem. Since the best answer out of that thread was calling Nintendo, I finally caved in and did so. Very luckily for me, I was completely wrong about when I had actually bought my Wii U, so I had a week left on my warranty. I know this won’t help people who’s warranty expired, but I figured I would at least warn people before they go out and buy a Wii U Pro controller to try and fix the issue. :) Anyways, if you are having the blinking red light on the console the problem is most likely an overheating issue and will have to be sent in for repairs.

    MHunterMalek
  22. After today’s update, my gamepad has a range of 3 feet. Beyond that, the gamepad will throw the message that it’s disconnected from the console.

    It was a new experience calling Nintendo support. I’ve always had a console hooked up since the 8-bit NES, and never had technical or hardware issues (if we’re not counting having to blow the game cartridges!).

    Having preordered the unit and receieved on launch, my warranty is also up. The repair bill I was quoted was $175 plus shipping. I pleaded my case… being a long time Nintendo owner, I preordered both the Wii and Wii U, a Nintendo console has been the main console in my living room since 1985, not to mention this unit was functioning just fine before the update was pushed to the console. This earned me a $25 discount on the repair.

    I feel betrayed.

    Greg
  23. Holy Shit i just got this problem 4 days ago and have been trying to resolve it with not a glimmer of hope. There is definitely going to be a major surge in this problem as i’ve been finding different forums with similar posts. Not to mention it’s usually launch consoles that are just off warranty. I too feel betrayed as i supported right from the beginning even though the console is in a huge slump. If they don’t keep customers like us happy they will have no one….period. I haven’t called them yet as i need to cool down for a couple of days and decide if it’s even worth sending in or if i should stick it out for possible recall or warranty extension. I hope they do the right thing and admit to this design flaw. Kyle
    P.s i borrowed my buddies gamepad and his works fine on my console so this is definitely a gamepad malfunction.

    Kyle
    • Good idea to borrow another Gamepad, Kyle. I wanted to do the same to test it, but I literally know no one else in my area with Wii U. A couple dozen Wii owners, but no Wii U. I even asked at GameStop if I could bring in the system to test it, but they didn’t have any used units.

      Kirk Hiner
      • Hey Kirk. I understand how hard it would be to find a gamepad as the sales are not good on this console. I only know 2 other people with Wii U’s and they live half and hour drive away in another city. For how long the Wii U has been on the market its definitely struggling. But that is all the more reason why Nintendo should take care of its early adopters or who will be left?

        Kyle
  24. I am having the same problem with my connection. It used to work fine, but now, all the time i get the unstable message, then the connection has been lost. It is very annoying because when I am playing Call of Duty with friends, the thing will suddenly cut off, then we can’t hear each other.I use the pro controller anyway, but it is still very annoying for the sound to suddenly cut off. When my father and I talked to Nintendo, they said it would be $200 U.S.D. plus shipping, just because it was a few months out of warranty. It is a new system anyway, only being bought Christmas time 2012… The people we talked to at Nintendo had heard of this problem before, and were not surprised, either.

    Buddy
  25. My sons game pad went haywire after 2 or 3 months and nintendo did pay to fix it but now its been over 6 months and the game pad just died. I mean it wont do anything. It just powered off while I was watching netflix, the console still works because netflix was still on the TV but I could not control it because the pad died. Any suggestions? I went on the Nintendo website but after it just says(finally)to call them. I am ordering another power cord off ebay. Hope that will help

    debbie
  26. I don’t see a problem with my gamepad breaking as I can just use the controller pro I have, I’ll have issues with some features such as settings as I believe this is entirely done on the gamepad but oh well.

    FC360
    • That’s largely how I got through the trouble (Wind Waker HD, for example(, but there were quite a few games that require the Gamepad and cannot be played without it.

      But when (if) you’re suddenly hit with a $100 repair on your Gamepad, you’ll see why there’s a problem with it.

      Kirk Hiner