Talking Point: The Nintendo Network ID's Next Big Step

Not quite fully “networked”, yet

We’ve praised the concept behind the Nintendo Network a fair bit here on Nintendo Life, and in various news posts and features we’ve stated or alluded to the fact that it could be the start of a bright new online era for Nintendo. To start this particular article on a positive point, there are plenty of encouraging signs: Miiverse looks interesting and offers exciting social opportunities, while online gaming and making friends on Wii U generally seems to be relatively simple and pain free, thanks to the Nintendo Network ID and the console's user account system. There are occasional glitches, bugs, hang ups and issues with Wii U in its early days, as well as a potentially troublesome firmware update, but that’s common for a new system so reliant upon online connectivity.

So, based on what we've seen, what areas could be enhanced on the Nintendo Network in the future? There are still question marks around DLC flexibility, for example, though Nintendo has stated that it's not placing restrictions on publishers. If we were to pick one key area, however, we'd say that it's the Nintendo Network ID that's first in line for an improvement. It's arguably been one of the most eagerly anticipated parts of Wii U, which a number of Nintendo gamers surely felt would finally bring their console experience onto something resembling a level playing field, with features and options already familiar to Xbox 360 and PS3 owners. Yet the term Network ID is only partly right: yes, it’s an ID that manages online interactions, which is excellent, but it’s also locked to one system. It’s not engaging with the cloud and opening up your Wii U experience, it’s chained to your console. If you want to be really, really harsh, you could call it a glorified Friend Code.

That last sentence is probably unfair, but reflects the frustration that’s sure to be felt by some loyal Nintendo gamers that perhaps expected more from this ID from the off. While many may not be particularly concerned, this news spoils some potential fun that could have given the Wii U greater life between friends. For example, if you played a game of co-op New Super Mario Bros. U with a friend or sibling on your Wii U, it may have been tempting to go to the other’s house on another day, fire up their version of the game while logged into your account and, hey presto, you could resume the save file that you’d been playing together.

Another area where this could be an issue is if your system is stolen or unexpectedly bricked, which can happen with any technology. While devices and platforms from Sony, Microsoft, Apple and Google have universal IDs that allow simple and immediate retrieval of content and data onto a new system, at present the solution with Wii U is likely to be more complicated. We have little doubt that Nintendo's customer services will assist those that lose their content, but it's a disappointment that the ID won't be a fool-proof, simple way to retrieve information.

We imagine that a few gamers saw the descriptions of Nintendo Network, the various attractive graphics showing the logo, Wii U and various connected circles, and envisioned that the Nintendo Network ID truly was your login’s place in the “cloud”. While Nintendo rightly stops you copying and transporting download purchases from one system to another, it was surely the case that your ID would allow you to connect on a friend’s system. Disappointed gamers perhaps have only themselves to blame — Nintendo never actually said this would be the case, but it sure hinted at it.

We may be wishing for something that will happen in a subsequent update, of course. To reiterate what Nintendo said from our original story.

A Nintendo Network Account can only be used on the console where it was created. In the future, you will be able to use your Nintendo Network Account with future Nintendo consoles and other devices, such as PC's.

So, in the future, we may be able to login to a friend’s machine and access our save data in games that they mutually own, or easily switch content and save data to a new console. It must also be said that, from day one, Wii U is still easily Nintendo’s most social system to date, taking major strides forward; it'd be infeasible to expect that some anticipated features wouldn't be missing on day one.

If the day one update of the system shows us anything, it’s that what you see in your Wii U isn’t the finished product. System updates to 3DS have been notably frequent and have significantly enhanced the device since launch, and we’re certainly hoping to see the same with Wii U. It does seem, meanwhile, as if Nintendo is intent on making connectivity simple and enjoyable for gamers, so we shouldn't necessarily let frustration over some issues deflect from the positive steps we've seen so far. Wii U is a very young system that will undoubtedly grow, and maybe this is one shortcoming that will be fixed; hopefully we just need to be patient.

What do you think about the Nintendo Network ID being tied to a console. Does it bother you, are you happy for it to stay that way, or are you confident that an update will change it in the near future? Let us know in the comments below.