Sunday, October 2, 2011

Nintendo Hardware Isn't What It Used To Be

As some of you might know, my Wii system is malfunctioning and will soon be sent in for repair. This marks the second time I've had an issue with it, and it isn't the same problem as last time. Until now, I have never had a Nintendo system that ceased to function, as their products are generally built to last. Unfortunately, recent Nintendo hardware does not follow this same philosophy.

Dating back to the NES, the Nintendo systems I've owned have withstood much senseless abuse. Growing up with three siblings who took a long time to learn to share, our systems were pulled in tug-o-wars, stomped on by angry boys, slapped silly by frustrated kids trying to get games to work, and much more. One unfortunate Nintendo GameCube even took an untimely trip down the stairs, and didn't get a scratch on it. We destroyed a Sega Genesis and Sony PlayStation over the years, but all of the Nintendo systems still work today and currently reside in my loving care.

In contrast, the Wii is the first system that was purchased and maintained entirely by myself. It has never come close to receiving the kind of punishment as the systems I grew up with; the worst thing that has happened to it is getting my shirt caught in the disc intake roller. And yet, it's the first one to ever need a repair, not once, but twice, entirely through normal use. What is it about the Wii that makes it pale in comparison to past Nintendo hardware?

The simple answer is that the Wii was designed with style and compactness over durability. Inside the Wii are many components that run hot, one of which is the Wi-Fi transmitter that produces quite a bit of heat. Having all these components in such close proximity is a recipe for heat build-up that can cause a myriad of issues, such as melt solder, which will eventually cause the processors to behave strangely and in time cease to function. This is the problem that has happened to me, more specifically to the GPU, which creates unusual graphical artifacts and incorrectly-coloured pixels.

To make matters worse, using the Stand By function of the Wii runs the Wi-Fi transmitter without the cooling fans, leaving nothing to dissipate the heat. Placing the system vertically will block the intake vent, hindering its ventilation. There are other issues with the design as well, including that a slot-loading drive isn't as durable as a flip-top drive as seen on the GameCube, and can also not be cleaned without a special kit. The dual-disc design used to read GameCube discs makes this drive even more prone to wear.

Outside of durability, the Wii hardware is more conservative than it needed to be. I understand that Nintendo was trying to create a system that is affordable to both consumers and developers alike, and I agree with that idea. But there are a couple of aspects that could have been better without breaking the bank. The amount of RAM in the system is pretty small for what the GPU and CPU are capable of, which often bottlenecks its performance. As well, the internal flash memory is tiny when you consider the amount of data it was meant to store. Both of these elements would have been cheap to include higher capacity chips.

Nintendo's latest handheld, the 3DS, has its own issues as well. Some of the functions seem as if they were tossed on there with no thought of how they will be used, part of which may simply be because Nintendo wanted the 3DS to have a different appearance than previous DS models. The Start and Select buttons are not easy to reach, and the Power button was placed where they used to be. The mic is also hidden away, I had to have someone show me where it is before I found it, and doesn't work well in games where you have to blow air into it. The new slide pad attachment is ugly and kind of defeats the portability aspect. As for durability, there have already been reports of the top half coming loose, causing such issues as the top screen losing power. Considering it hasn't even been a year yet, this isn't a good sign.

Nintendo used to create top-notch hardware that could withstand abuse I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. More importantly, they were designed with practicality and usability above all else, even if this sometimes resulted in weird-looking hardware. The Nintendo of today appears to focus more on style over durability, and have even taken one too many cost-cutting measures. Don't get me wrong, I still think they create the best games around. But they no longer produce the best of both software and hardware.

What are your own experiences with Nintendo hardware? Have you also witnessed a drop in quality as of recent? Leave your comment and chime in!


Maxi said...

Hmm I think the Wii is the first Nintendo system that I ever had to send in for repairs. As far as games go I think the first time I ran into a glitch from a Nintendo game that stopped the game from playing was in Metroid Prime for the Gamecube. See when you went through a certain room in Chozo Ruins it would freeze but when you reset it again it wouldn't happen again.That glitch was in the first run of the game when it first came out. As far as non Nintendo glitches in games it was WWF No Mercy for the N64. I would create a character and at random times while I was playing my create a character would revert back to the base form and all the move sets that was default.

Gwaihir Scout said...

My Wii's disc drive is nearly kaput. It already can't play Gamecube discs any more.

On the other hand, my original DS is built like a tank. I've dropped it over 3 feet onto a rocky slope and nothing happened to it. The only damage besides exterior nicks is some scratches on the touch screen from Elite Beat Agents.

coffeewithgames said...

"What are your own experiences with Nintendo hardware? Have you also witnessed a drop in quality as of recent? Leave your comment and chime in!"

Well, my N64 still works, and I would guess my GameCube would work, but it's in hiding right now.
My Wii though, I'm very, very, very paranoid that it's going to just stop working one day.
My neighbor has had to send off his Wii I think three times now, and the last time they sent it back BROKEN...SD eject button does not work, so he has to use tweezers to remove the SD card.

Not only is the Wii itself a troubled system, but Nintendo's repair service with it is absolutely horrible from what I have heard...and not just from my neighbor, but another Wii owner as well.

The fact that you can't backup/save certain games' data, and the fact that the entire system can "magically" stop working requiring a complete restoration, was/is really bad programming on Nintendo's part.
Our neighbors has hundreds of hours in Animal Crossing: City Folk, and after the last "fix", all their data for the game was gone...and there is no way to back that data up on an SD card...that's why I'm paranoid of a Wii system crash...losing certain games that have been played a lot in our household, particularly Animal Crossing: City Folk.

NinSage said...


After much internal conflict, I installed the homebrew channel so that I could make a backup of my 600 hr MHTri save file.

You should do the same so you can relax a bit!

Also, don't forget...
360 failure rate: 23.7%
PS3 failure rate: 10%
Wii failure rate: 2.7%

Mop_it_up said...

Maxi, glitches aren't hardware, they are software, but even so, that is an interesting subject. Over the years, there have been a few glitches in Nintendo games, but rarely anything game-breaking. It's certainly nothing compared to some of the games released today on the PS3 and XBox 360, some of the ones I've seen are nothing short of broken.

The DS does seem pretty sturdy from when I had one, it might be the last durable piece or hardware. This is just the age we live in.

The nice thing about the homebrew community is that some of the stuff they put out can help with some of the potential issues with the Wii.

As for statistics, they don't mean much to the individual. If I counted only people I knew, the failure rates would look like this:

XBox 360: 80%
Wii: 60%
PS3: 0%

coffeewithgames said...


I had this conversation on another site, and specifically asked about Homebrew and being able to backup data...I was told on that site that the Homebrew app would not allow me to backup certain game files, just because of the way they are saved to the Wii's system memory...but I thought MHT was one of those, so do you know if it's possible to save ALL game files by Homebrew?

NinSage said...


I have personally backed up my MH3 save file with the HMC.

However, I gotta be honest, I see the file it created and I have no idea what to do with it should I have to use it =P

But, I figure: it's there and if the worst case scenario happens I'll figure it out then!