DRM


Regular Ars readers will remember how Nintendo's bafflingly obtuse DRM system forced me to pay $60 to move $400 worth of previously purchased Wii Virtual Console games to my new Wii U. Apparently I should have held out longer, because at least one user is reporting Nintendo eventually accommodated him more when fixing a similar issue.

Last month, Ryan, one host of the Nintendo Fun Club Podcast, chronicled his experience with Error Code 200101, a recurring issue preventing him from transferring $570 worth of Virtual Console purchases from the Wii to the Wii U. Three calls to Nintendo customer support throughout the course of a week seemed to be getting him no closer to having his problem fixed. The whole scenario had Ryan running up against the same $85 Wii "repair" wall I encountered.

Then something surprising happened. As Ryan notes in a follow-up post, his fourth call to Nintendo support left him with a $620 account credit in the Wii Shop Channel—including a $50 bonus for "the inconvenience." Nintendo could apparently also remotely delete the licenses for the games purchased on his Wii system, allowing him to easily repurchase the games he lost. This was especially interesting to me, because the Nintendo customer service rep I talked to told me in no uncertain terms such license deletion was impossible.

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Here at Ars Technica, we've had some recent personal experience with how Nintendo's DRM schemes can get in the way of using downloadable titles on new hardware. And now, new details about how the Wii U's Virtual Console will interact with previously purchased titles has us wondering.

As announced last week, the Wii U Virtual Console is a completely separate beast from the one on the Wii. It includes new features like independent play on the touchscreen GamePad, customizable controls, and a connection to the Miiverse social forums. If you want these new features on a game you already bought and downloaded on the Wii, you'll have to pay a small upgrade fee: $1 for NES games or $1.50 for SNES games.

All in all, this could be worse. Sure it's a bit galling to pay again for a downloadable game you already own, but at least Nintendo isn't charging the full price of $5 to $9 for previous purchasers. Plus, you do get some new features for your outlay.

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It all looks so simple in cartoon form...

Last month, when a combination of overly stringent DRM and aging hardware trapped $400+ of purchased downloadable games on my old Wii, I promised I would give an update on the results of Nintendo's $65 repair program. Well, the repaired system came back this weekend, and I was finally able to transfer most of my saved and purchased content over to the Wii U. Of course, the ordeal wouldn't be complete without a few final hassles for good measure.

First, the bad news: the memory problem afflicting my launch-era Wii meant Nintendo had to replace the main circuit board for the system, including all the save data and personal settings that were contained on the Wii's internal system memory. Most of my important save files were backed up to an SD card, but I did lose the uncopiable save files for games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Mario Kart Wii. I'll have to play through those games again if I want to re-unlock the characters and courses I had already earned. Such is life. Frankly, I'm more relieved that my 100 percent completion files on games like Super Mario Galaxy and Punch-Out! were safe.

On the plus side, Nintendo also replaced the disc drive and cleaned the exterior of the system, so my six-year-old Wii is now practically factory fresh. The system came back with a new serial number, too, making me wonder why they didn't just give me an entirely new console when it was clear the memory was shot (then again, maybe they did).

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It all looks so simple in cartoon form...

Last month, when a combination of overly stringent DRM and aging hardware trapped $400+ of my purchased downloadable games on my old Wii, I promised I would give an update on the results of Nintendo's $65 repair program. Well, the repaired system came back this weekend, and I was finally able to transfer most of my saved and purchased content over to the Wii U. Of course, the ordeal wouldn't be complete without a few final hassles for good measure.

First, the bad news: the memory problem afflicting my launch-era Wii meant Nintendo had to replace the main circuit board for the system, including all the save data and personal settings that were contained on the Wii's internal system memory. Most of my important save files were backed up to an SD card, but I did lose the uncopiable save files for games like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Mario Kart Wii. I'll have to play through those games again if I want to re-unlock the characters and courses I had already earned. Such is life. Frankly, I'm more relieved that my 100 percent completion files on games like Super Mario Galaxy and Punch-Out! were safe.

On the plus side, Nintendo also replaced the disc drive and cleaned the exterior of the system, so my six-year-old Wii is now practically factory fresh. The system came back with a new serial number, too, making me wonder why they didn't just give me an entirely new console when it was clear the memory was shot (then again, maybe they did).

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The new Nintendo Network ID system that debuted on the Wii U is a sign of progress for a company that has, historically, not shown a lot of savvy in setting up its online systems. The Wii U lets users connect up to 12 separate Nintendo Network IDs to a single system and use those IDs to easily connect with online friends and strangers. The new Wii U eShop includes many retail games for download on the same day they reach stores, and does away with the "Wii Points" virtual currency that characterized Nintendo's previous console. The company has even promised to roll out a cloud save feature sometime next year.

Given all of these improvements, it's a bit baffling that Nintendo is still caught in the past when it comes to the extremely limiting digital rights management system that ties downloaded game and content purchases to a single console.

As Nintendo's Wii U FAQ makes clear, "a Nintendo Network Account can only be used on the console where it was created." Thus, any games tied to that unique online ID will only work on the first system they're purchased and downloaded to. This is in essence the same setup that Nintendo used to protect downloaded Virtual Console and WiiWare games on the first Wii, a setup that not only utterly failed to stop piracy on the system but also caused headaches for many early Wii owners with faulty systems.

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Well... crap.

(This story has been updated with further information at the bottom of this post)

Downloading Nintendo’s massive, day-one Wii U firmware update took over an hour, but the length of time didn't bother me. I would finally be able to transfer the Virtual Console games I bought for the Wii over to my new Wii U. Then I could finally remove the old console itself from my entertainment center.

Unfortunately, my plan failed. Nintendo’s over-zealous DRM scheme, combined with a malfunction in my launch-era Wii hardware, instead trapped my purchases on the Wii. Unless I’m willing to pay Nintendo to help me out, $400 of downloaded games will remain in limbo.

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