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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Disconnected: Nintendo's Online Incompetence

The standard has been set. If any videogame system wishes to survive, handheld or console, it must have online compatibility. Arguably one of the most important features of the current generation of videogames, online compatibility has transformed the way people think of “multi-player” games. Pioneered by modems and near-perfected by the internet, playing online has taken the videogame community by storm and isn’t looking back. With success coming from Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network one may think that Nintendo is right up with its competitors in the race for online connection – well, instead, it has the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection; a second-rate substitute for online gaming. While it may get the job done, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection is light-years behind the competition in the online world.

First introduced in 2005 the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection gave gamers a glimpse of Nintendo’s first venture into first-party online gaming. By syncing their Nintendo DS to a wireless router or using a Nintendo-brand USB port, gamers could play certain titles such as Mario Kart DS online for free courtesy of the Wi-Fi Connection. Upon the initial success of the DS’ connection, Nintendo followed up with their plans and used them on the Wii. The result is a simple yet efficient online gaming experience that lives up to the easy, safe, and free philosophy of the Wi-Fi Connection. The easy, safe, and free aspect can be fun for a certain amount of time but it leaves more to be desired by gamers who wish to fully-experience online compatibility and is the source of the major flaws with the Connection.

By connecting directly to the internet via routers or USB the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection lacks a social connection aspect that Xbox Live and PlayStation Network offer. For the Wi-Fi Connection each copy of a different copy is given a specific “Friend Code” that serves the purpose of connecting with others online. Friend Codes must be mutually added by both parties in order for them connect and can be a hassle managing seeing as each game has a specific friend code. While the Wii has a “Wii Number” system which allows interaction between Wii consoles it fails to manage friend codes, however, and serves little practical functions.

What Nintendo needs to do is to generate unique accounts similar to Xbox Live Gamertags to eliminate the need of friend codes. While it would require stronger servers and would cost some money on the users end it would be a lot easier and would allow users to connect to each other on a more personal level. With that the Connection would become much more popular and it would be able to compete with Xbox Live and PlayStation Network – which when it comes down to it, is a large factor that Nintendo should be working on.

This would, however, stray away from one of Nintendo’s top priorities; safety. Nintendo seems to be overprotective regarding online communication limiting what’s said online by setting up generic phrases. While they did venture with vocal communications through Metroid Prime Hunters – the idea was quickly scrapped. If Nintendo was able to set up communication they would be able to add more depth to strategic games similar to that of the very successful Call of Duty 4. By stepping back and not being the protective “parent” that they are Nintendo could open a world of possibilities to its online gaming.

One of the largest issues with the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection isn’t on a social level – it’s on the server level. With the Wi-Fi Connection comes the inevitable lag that nobody likes. While cleaned up in Mario Kart Wii, games such as Super Smash Brothers Brawl suffered massive lag that slowed the gameplay to excruciating stand-stills. A two minute match could last up to upwards of 10 minutes thanks to the slow server connection. If Nintendo were to invest in stronger servers they would avoid lag and make gaming a more enjoyable experience which would yield a larger amount of people going online via the Wi-Fi Connection.

While Nintendo has announced the introduction of Pay and Play, a service that would require extra payments to fully utilize the game’s potential, they are still behind in the first-party online race. Third party games such as Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 for the Wii have expanded beyond the Wi-Fi limits and use EA’s online handle. If Nintendo were to invest in a stronger handle similar to EA’s or Xbox Live or PlayStation Network on a first-party basis they would be able to move away from the stagnant mess they created with the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.

It’s not that Nintendo has completely messed up it’s just that they are completely backwards and out-of-touch. The easy, safe, and free philosophy can only work for so long before growing stagnant. Nintendo needs to learn from their mistakes and advance on to fully compete with Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. Until then, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection will just be a hassle to real competitive gamers. Maybe if the Nintendo staff could open their eyes and see that there are more than just casual gamers out there then they could fully reach the potential of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.

Written By: Tyler Norton (Shadyltd7)

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