Nintendo says U.S. Wii U launch strong, despite software troubles

The Japanese gamemaker says some stores sold out of the console on day one, and apologizes for network outages

Nintendo apologized to early buyers of the Wii U for outages on its new online gaming platform, but said sales of its new flagship game console were strong during its global launch Sunday in the U.S.

Eager buyers, some of whom lined up for hours and even days to get their hands on the new game in the U.S., were soon stuck as their consoles locked up for hours downloading a massive, and apparently mandatory, initial software update, with many taking to message boards and Twitter to voice their displeasure. Some users also said they were able to access admin screens in Japanese, and posted pictures online.

A support message on Nintendo's U.S. website asked new users to be patient.

"The system update may take an extended amount of time when performed during the initial setup (for some users it could take an hour or more to download and install). Do not power off your system during this time."

Many users who did get online have had trouble accessing Nintendo's "Miiverse," a social network built into the Wii U that allows gamers to interact using their "Mii" avatars online. A maintenance message posted late Sunday in the U.S. said there is an "Ongoing" outage to Miiverse, with no timeframe for recovery.

"Some online services are currently unavailable. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."

Japan-based chief spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa said he had seen reports of the software problems but they will be handled by the company's U.S. subsidiary. He said that early signs are that Sunday's U.S. launch was still a strong one, despite the issues.

"I have heard a lot of stores are sold out," he said.

Nintendo's Wii U launches outside of Japan are largely being handled independently by its subsidiaries in each country. After sales began Sunday in the U.S., the next major launch will be in Europe on Nov. 30.

The company's global headquarters is in Kyoto. The Wii U will go on sale in Japan on Dec. 8.

Software bugs for game consoles and other digital devices are common at launch, with hardware makers rushing to meet launch deadlines and relying on updates to patch any issues. Sony released a software update for its handheld PlayStation Vita a week after its launch in Japan last year, before the device had even gone on sale in the U.S.

Nintendo chose to update its Wii home console ahead of expected major product updates from rivals Microsoft and Sony, counting on a strong holiday season to buoy its sagging finances. The company has struggled to make its latest handheld game, the 3DS, meet sales targets.

Nintendo aims to sell 5.5 million Wii U consoles globally by March.

The Wii U's main feature is its "GamePad" controller, which is similar to a full-fledged tablet in itself, with a touchscreen, motion detection, camera and stylus. Its small screen can be used to supplement games played on a larger TV, or serve as the main display. The main console can use NFC (near field communication) technology that is widely used in mobile payment systems, as well as expanded online services. It can also serve as a home entertainment center, allow users to stream videos from online services such as Hulu, Amazon and Netflix, though not all such streaming is available now for the U.S. launch.

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Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service
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