Malcolm Owen On August 15, 2008 at 11:15 am

Dear Shigeru Miyamoto

I know you probably won’t remember me at all, but we have almost met in the past, during ECTS in London a fair few years back. And by "almost met", I mean that I was a fair few metres away from you and didn’t actually speak to you at all. "Observer from Afar" would probably be a good term for it. Granted, I managed to get closer to Peter Molyneux when he was doing interviews than you, and I saw Kieron Gillen at the Future Publishing booth from twice the distance away (and giggled like a schoolgirl at a Robbie Williams concert), but since we were within Shot Putting distance of each other, I’ll count that as you having met me and vice versa.

Anyway, Shigsy (Can I call you Shigsy?), as someone that has been close enough to be classed as a stalker, I have a request for you. And yes, I know you aren’t the top man at Nintendo, but you are so much of a figurehead you might as well be.
It’s about your new baby, the Wii.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic console, and despite not going for the graphical improvement that every other sane person in the industry is doing. The motion control of the Wiimote being integral to the gaming? What a fantastic innovational manoeuvre. Indeed, it is so good, I want to be able to use this control system to play with other people. And I can do so very easily. Offline.

Online game playing is however insanely painful. Wii Friend Codes are a hateful idea that should have been left on the drawing board and replaced with whatever everyone else was doing. If I wanted to friend to the Wii  my own Mother in a different county, I would have to contact her by some method other than the console (we opted for the telephone, a great invention if you ignore the telemarketers), give her my randomly generated 16 digit friend code, take another randomly generated 16 digit friend code from her, put it into my Wii’s friend list and hope that the Wii’s online voodoo actually works out we want to be friends this side of the apocalypse.

If you can’t see what’s going wrong Shigaroo, I’ll break it down for you…
1 – Instead of allowing us to choose a name to go by, just like pretty much any other gaming or messaging service out there, we are forced to try and remember a long number instead, and that’s not something I can do easily when it is a number that I don’t give out that often (and yes, I know how ironic it is for me to complain about a 16 digit number when I can easily remember an 11 digit one to phone my mother, but that’s different. Namely I can actually communicate with her pretty well over the phone, and therefore I have a decent incentive to remember it). Why can’t we use names like on Xbox Live or Steam? Most people would at least be able to remember those. Seriously, which is easier to remember, "StewieGriffinMom23" or "8389748393746752"?
2 – The Wii friend code relates only to the console, not to individual players. At least with other systems, I have a username and password to use that allows me access from other consoles without penalty. I know that by sending a message to my mother’s Wii that it will get there, but I don’t know whom exactly with read it or even whom is replying if they neglect to put a signature.
3 – If my Wii got lost, stolen, broken etc, I have no way of getting my code back. I would end up having to get another Wii, and then start telling everyone on my old list (by other means than the Wii, remember) my new number. As already noted, if I signed into another Xbox 360 using the gamertag and password, my friends list would be readily available.
4 – On most other messaging systems, there is the option of adding people to your own list and at least asking permission from the other user to do so automatically. In this Web 2.0, Facebo, Mybook and MS Bob world, invites to be added to friend lists are the norm, and for those that don’t like that sort of thing there is always the option to block such invites from anyone not on their list. The Wii does not allow for this in any way, shape or form. If I add my mother’s Wii friend code, it appears in grey on my list until she adds me to her own one. Whilst grey, I can’t message her or send her my Mii at all. She also gets no notice at all on screen that I have tried to add her as a friend, especially when having an invite appearing would make creating connections between players much easier to do.
5 – Why on earth do I have to get a completely different friend code when I want to play a game against friends instead of using the Wii’s own friend code system? Xbox Live, Steam etc allow me to find my friends to play against, and actively use the name on the gamertag in-game as much as possible. The social system is thoroughly integrated into the services and games, which is a stark contrast to the Wii. The Wii’s own friend code is not used in games at all (except, for example, in Brawl or Mario Kart, where you have the option of sending your "Specially created for the game and has no bearing at all on the normal friend code" game friend code through the Wii messaging system to make it vaguely simpler for people to find you online), and this is a greatly missed opportunity.

Not all hope is lost, SM. It’s still not too late. My own suggestion would be to implement a social system similar to the above listed names, possibly linking it to a Mii (which would be a hell of a lot better than a "Gamerpic", quite frankly), and maybe linking to the friend code as well. Granted, the first waves of Wii games will miss these additions (but most of them are single player or local multiplayer anyway) but it would allow future titles to give us something that we want in terms of socializing. Yes, socializing. As in to meet new people and old friends. That thing that is damn hard to do with a console using a heavily restrictive friend system.

Anyway, I guess you are a busy man making Mario Does the Weekly Shopping or Extreme Ironing: F-Zero Edition and so won’t have the time to do these small changes that could transform the system. Doing these changes would be quite big and maybe a bit hard to do, but I’m sure you can pull it off, Shiggy.

Hoping there’s changes.

Malcolm Owen

P.S. Any chance of increasing the Wii’s drive space in a more useful way than an SD card? Just saying…

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