Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection
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“Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection is simple to use. Beginning with free access… we have removed one of the major barriers that have kept people from going online to play games.”
The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (abbreviated WFC) was Nintendo's online match making service used by specific games on a Nintendo system specifically designed to make use of the service. While the system itself is very capable as far as actual matches are concerned, the manner in which it was designed severely limits the creation of an online community. Both the Nintendo DS and Wii, as well as the Nintendo DSi, made use of the system. The system was terminated on May 20th, 2014 and was succeeded by Nintendo Network which is still active today on members of the Nintendo 3DS family, Wii U, and Nintendo Switch.
Utilizing the service
When creating the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, Nintendo aimed to remove the barriers faced by users when attempting to play games online. The system was free, and Nintendo made no indication that it would charge in the future. Secondly, the system was designed to be easy to use.
Players must have a wireless access point or hotspot, typically a wireless router. The router’s settings may need to be adjusted to accept the system as well. The first time a player connects, a connection file is saved on the system using a step-by-step process. After the router and the Nintendo system connect successfully, the player can log in at any time. Common problems faced by first-time users include firewalls and parental controls.
In an attempt to widen the user base, Nintendo released the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector. This device connects Nintendo hardware to the Internet, through the user's Microsoft Windows computer and an available USB port. This is particularly useful for players without wireless routers or home routers using the WPA or WPA2 wireless security standards, when the Nintendo DS and games are only compatible with WEP. This excludes Nintendo DSi enhanced titles, such as Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!, but requires the player to be playing on a Nintendo DSi. The Nintendo DS, Wii, Nintendo DSi, and Nintendo 3DS can connect with the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector, but the Wii U can't.
Also, a player could link a Nintendo DS to the Connection at Wi-Fi enabled McDonald’s restaurants for free. When no other option is available, it is also possible for a computer connected to the Internet to create a hotspot.
The Wii can also be connected to the Internet with a wired LAN connection. For this, the Wii LAN Adapter has to be bought separately. It is plugged into one of the USB ports at the back of the Wii and offers a port for LAN cables. This can cause confusion with the term of a similar name because the adapter bypasses the need to look for a hotspot. The name Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection was chosen when the Wii was still in development and the only device able to access the internet was the Nintendo DS, which no LAN support was possible.
Once logged into the service, the game system took players to the online lobby of the video game they were playing. Since there are no user accounts, Nintendo used Friend Codes and Wii System Codes. Friend Codes were automatically assigned to a game when it connected to Nintendo WFC for the first time. Each Friend Code is unique and it is impossible for two game units to have identical Friend Codes. In fact, each Friend Code is a 32 bit number and the games extend it with a 7 bit checksum to a total of 39 bits. The player could not alter the Friend Code in any way, and the only way to get a new one was to delete save data on the game unit and connect to Nintendo WFC again. The player could register codes and usernames of another player using Nintendo WFC. Wii System Codes work in a similar manner but are exclusive to the Wii console's messaging service.
While each game made different use of the system, there are typical options for Wi-Fi enabled games. In Worldwide play, games were matched with a random player from anywhere around the globe. Regional play allowed players to battle other players with the same regional version of the game. Rivals mode paired players of similar skill levels. Friends mode allowed players to compete against other players with whom they have exchanged their Friend or Wii System Codes. This mode often includes more features, including voice chat.
Mario games that used WFC
A handful of Mario games utilized this feature. The following list is in order of releases.
“Customers do not want online games. At the moment, most customers do not wish to pay the extra money for connections to the Internet, and for some customers, connection procedures to the Internet are still not easy.”
Nintendo’s online plans for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64 ultimately failed to create a reliable online system that would serve Nintendo for as long as it desired. When the Nintendo GameCube was released, it technically had the ability to go online with the use of a special adapter, but Nintendo left it up to developers to create a reliable service. When the GameCube’s rivals, the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, supported flourishing online services, many critics attacked Nintendo for having an archaic view of online games.
In May 2004, rumors began to circulate that Nintendo would be launching an online service. Finally, Satoru Iwata gave the big announcement on March 10, 2005 at the 2005 Game Developers Conference. He stated that the service would be free and connecting to the service would be easy. However, it was not until May of that year at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo that the service was given an official name, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
Pairing with IGN Entertainment to utilize the already active GameSpy match-making service, Nintendo was able to give the WFC the match-making ability without the use of servers. The big issue behind most other online plans is the operation of servers. However, Nintendo sidestepped this problem by giving the Nintendo DS the ability to connect with one another without the use of the service after match-making was complete. Yet, this created a new problem. If a company wishes to expand online features beyond match-making, they are forced to manage their own network. This means that massively multiplayer online games are not compatible with Nintendo’s service as it stands.
On November 14, 2005, the system went public with American releases of Mario Kart DS from Nintendo and Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land from Activision. The second Nintendo title, Animal Crossing: Wild World, followed shortly after.
Nintendo of America paired with Wayport in an effort to increase the user base of the connection. Through their partnership, Nintendo was able to utilize the Internet hotspots at all compatible McDonald’s restaurants throughout the United States. Players could then log onto WFC for free by simply playing at one of the restaurants in the same way they could play in their homes. In other public areas that offered Wi-Fi services, however, the Nintendo DS required a personal computer or laptop to create a hotspot for it.
Less than four months after its November 14, 2005 release, the service had seen more than one million specific users worldwide, with over twenty-seven million connections. On March 30, 2007, Nintendo announced that over 5 million unique users and over two hundred million sessions.
While the Wii had utilized the connection since its release for software updates and Wii Connect24, its first online game was released by Nintendo of Japan on December 14, 2006, Pokémon Battle Revolution. Soon after, Nintendo of Europe released Mario Strikers Charged on May 25, 2007. Nintendo of America brought the American Wii online on June 25, 2007 with the release of the localized Pokémon Battle Revolution. In Korea, the first game using Wi-Fi Connection was Rayman Raving Rabbids 2.
Originally, Nintendo did not have any plans to cease the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection for either the Wii or the DS. This may have been because of the overwhelming popularity of both consoles and that neither received an update feature to their systems via the same service to make use of the Nintendo Network instead. It is worth noting that both Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart DS were the most popular games played online on their respected systems, which is probably another reason why the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection didn't receive a discontinuation date yet.
In 2014, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service was discontinued for Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo DSi. The date is different in different countries; for example it was discontinued in West Europe on June 8, 2014. This includes online play, matchmaking, and leaderboards.
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