Nintendo’s got some big and genuinely interesting things going on at GDC today, the biggest surprise being Wii firmware update 4.0, which will, at long last, address the white box’s hitherto laughable onboard storage.
Joystiq’s coverage is pretty complete, so I will try not to be redundant – previously, any games you wanted to download and play on the Wii had to live in its 512MB of onboard storage – you could insert a 2GB SD memory card into the Wii to store things onto, but you couldn’t actually run anything installed to that card. For comparison’s sake, the Xbox 360 Pro model currently on the market, at 60GB, has 120 times more onboard storage for games and other data. Ouch, Nintendo.
Today’s announcement of the “SD Card Menu” is not only allowing savvy consumers to run games off of those external SD cards, but it is also allowing players to use cards up to 32GB in size instead of the previous 2GB limit. A card that big is a little pricey at present, but a 16GB or 8GB card is much more reasonable, and 4GB cards can be had for a song. Considering that you can buy as many of these things as you want and just swap them out, I’d say that Nintendo’s solution suddenly looks much more appealing than Microsoft’s approach to storage upgrades.
Frankly, this functionality should have been built into the device right from the start, but now that it’s here it means that Wii owners are going to be able to get better downloadable content, more akin to that found on consoles with less limited storage. Developers no longer have to worry about the size of their content, just the quality, and that’s a definite win for gamers. The Wii just got that much more interesting.