Nintendo's Wii U Makes a Crummy First Impression

Wii UGetting my hands on a Wii U was easier than I thought.

I just drove over to my local Toys R Us a few minutes before it opened on Sunday. There were only eight people in line ahead of me, and the store had roughly 15 units available that weren't reserved ahead of time.

Actually playing with the system -- well, that's another story.

Ready? Set! Wait.

In a rush to get the system out ahead of the critical holiday shopping season, Nintendo's (NTDOY) hardware shipped without a significant, and unfortunately lengthy, firmware update.

When it seemed as if the required software update was taking forever to complete I surfed the Web to see if my problem was unique. It wasn't. Reports of folks having to wait as long as two hours for the download to complete -- and another half hour to install after that -- are everywhere.

It gets worse.

Some impatient gamers resorted to turning off their systems during the update, or attempting to restart the process. They are now finding that their Wii U's have been rendered unusable.

Another Brick in the Wall

"Wii U owners, please do not power down or unplug your system while downloading updates." Nintendo tweeted on Monday. "Doing so may cause damage to your Wii U."

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That's sage advice, but it comes a day late for too many early adopters who now have bricked systems. Besides, how many gamers will bother to check Nintendo's Twitter page before beginning the surprisingly lengthy software update?

Connectivity interruptions that prove fatal to the Wii U aren't the end of the world. They're covered by the system's warranty. The problem, though, is that returning to the store where it was originally purchased for an immediate swap isn't so easy. Most stores are already out of stock of the $300 gaming device.

Consoles aren't perfect. Sony (SNE) saw its PlayStation network hacked repeatedly last year. Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox owners suffered through the debilitating flashing red lights that became known as the Red Ring of Death.

However, the industry has suffered through three consecutive years of declines in sales. It can't afford to blow this new generation of systems.

Just Wait Until Christmas

Nintendo has a problem now, but keep in mind that many of the Wii U systems being purchased this week remain firmly packed in their boxes. Nintendo gamers tend to skew younger than the PS3 and Xbox 360 players, and that means that a lot of Wii U consoles will be wrapped and gifted next month.

If you think that teens and adults can be impatient, just wait until younger players overload Nintendo's servers on Christmas morning, only to find their parents scrambling to reach customer support to find out what to do with their inoperable presents.

Nintendo has a problem on its hands, and it's about to get worse.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Nintendo and Microsoft. The Motley Fool has sold shares of Sony short. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft.

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