The Great Internal Memory Debate

With over 200 games currently available on the Virtual Console service and the impending arrival of WiiWare, one thing seems to be concerning a vast number of Wii owners (if the comments on VC:R are anything to go by) and that’s internal memory storage.

The Wii comes equipped with just 512MB of internal storage for things like game saves, Virtual Console titles and other downloadable content. Unsurprisingly, this is proving to be far too small an amount of memory, especially for dedicated VC fans that have downloaded countless retro games using the service.

As it stands there are two solutions to this irksome problem; the first is to copy your games to an SD card. This idea presents two issues: once the game has been copied over you can’t actually play it from the SD card. Secondly, the process of copying the files over is time consuming for some of the bigger titles (N64 ones in particular).

The second solution is to delete the game entirely and download it again when you next feel like playing it (any game you buy is permanently available for you to download again whenever you wish, but obviously you can only download it to the Wii on which it was originally purchased). Needless to say, this isn’t exactly ideal either.

Hardcore Wii fans have long been wishing for some form of firmware update that permits VC games to be played from SD cards, but given the protracted copying time when moving files to and from the storage medium it seems unlikely that the transfer speed will be fast enough for gaming. This is of course mere conjecture and we would be pleased to be proven wrong; the ability to both store and play your games on a 4GB SD card would be an excellent solution to tackling this troublesome issue. SD cards are coming down in price all the time and it would be perfectly possible to have several cards containing all your VC and WiiWare purchases, if need be.

Since the release of the Wii many tech-savvy fans have pointed out that the two USB ports present on the console could open up a whole world of opportunities; one recent firmware update granted the ability to use USB keyboards on the machine, for example. Surely it would be a simple thing for Nintendo to allow Wii owners to hook up external hard drives for storage?

The idea is elegant in principle but we can foresee problems here, too. Nintendo is a company that is traditionally reticent about allowing third party hardware to be used on its consoles and the concept of plugging in any old hard drive would probably give Nintendo’s investors a coronary; why allow this when there’s money to be made? It’s far more likely that Nintendo will release its own dedicated storage drive (no doubt with a suitably daft name like “Super Mega Store”) and charge way above the odds for it while blocking the opportunity for Wii owners to use their own USB hard drives.

Whatever avenue Ninty decide to take one thing is clear: action has to be taken soon. When WiiWare arrives storage space will be at a premium and it’s hardly fair to expect owners to laboriously delete and re-download games when they start to run low of internal memory.

With rival companies like Microsoft and Sony boosting the hard drive capacity of their consoles, it’s high time that Nintendo looked at doing the same. It will have to if the company wishes to remain a key player in the sphere of downloadable content.