A good word for Nintendo repair services

A few hours a month, I like to play video games. I never get very far because I lack when teenagers have in abundance: time. However, I make it up by complaining that in my time, we had 4 colors—when we had colors at all—and a 80×25-pixel resolution, and we programmed our games ourselves in BASIC—if not assembly.

In any case, the Nintendo Wii is a great toy, but mine had recurring troubles with something called the “black screen of death” (BSD). Basically, you insert a disk and the Wii will fail loading it displaying a screen that goes like so: “disk error, press eject.” The first few times this happens, you think there is a scratch on the disk or some dust over your laser. Unfortunately, as times went by, my Wii got worse and worse. Eventually, a week ago, I got a BSD whenever I tried loading any game up.

I am not a man who likes to call up a company or send a product up for repair. However, I decided to call Nintendo. Turns out that they are very nice about it. They gave me a repair order over the phone, I shipped the Wii (for free) and now, 3 days later, I got an email saying that they are returning a working Wii to me.

A few things that Nintendo does right:

  • You can call them 7 days a week.
  • When you call them up, they do not make you wait with annoying messages like “your call is important to us.” No. They answer the phone almost immediately.
  • The support staff does not assume you are an idiot. They do not ask you whether you forgot to plug in the Wii.
  • At all times, you can track the repair order with their Web sites, and you receive automated emails.

My experience with Sony and my PS2 was much worse when I got similar problems. They had me call up California and an annoying lady took me on a ride. After 15 minutes on the phone, all she told me was that she was sorry that she could not help me. With Nintendo, there are no excuses. They take charge of my problem. Period.

Before I conclude: why are we still using disks at all? Most games are under 400 MB. I can easily download 10 or 20 such games a year without taxing my Internet bandwidth at all. Storing that much data is not an issue: a 10 GB Flash drive is dirt cheap. If the Flash drive fails, I may have to redownload the games, but who cares? And wouldn’t a Flash drive be much faster than an optical disk (at least for random reads)? I wish I could at least copy the optical drives on a Flash drive and have my game console load it up from there. I could easily put 10 games on a small drive. The Wii has USB ports, so there is no reason why this could not work. Maybe hackers out there even made it work already… any clue?

Update: I got the Wii back today (Friday), while I shipped my unit on Monday night. They changed the disk drive.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

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