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Trying out Nintendo's Wii memory solution

Major improvements for those who like to download.


Just as Iwata took the stage at today's Game Developers Conference, the Wii Shopping Channel at long last came out of its few hours slumber/maintenance.

But before I was able to enter the shop and see what all the fuss was about, I was told to update my firmware. Doing so brought about a slight change to the Wii system menu.

The SD card icon is to the right of the Wii system menu.

There's now an icon in the lower left side of the screen which takes you directly to the SD Card menu. Click on the icon, and after a few seconds, the content of the card is shown just like in the Channel management screen (the exact time for the content to display presumably depends on the size of your card and the amount of content it contains -- my card is only 512 megabytes).

Loading up the SD card view (left) and browsing SD card content (right).

Here's where the fun begins. You can now select a channel -- WiiWare, Virtual Console, etc. -- from the SD card for immediate play. The software doesn't run directly off SD, though. The Wii first copies the software over to its internal 512MB before loading the program up.

A game being copied over to the system's internal memory (in this case, Dracula X).

Yes, this does appear to be Nintendo's big Spring memory solution. And I'm pleased to say that it does seem to work nicely. There's no more fiddling around with copying stuff back and forth, as the system takes care of the dirty work for you.

You do, of course, have to wait for the software to be transferred over before you can begin play, but the waits didn't seem too bad for the few games I tried. For a low capacity game like the 29 block Air Zonk, the wait was just a couple of seconds. A larger WiiWare game like the 298 block Shootanto (don't ask me why I have this -- just don't) took about twenty seconds.

So what happens if you don't have enough cache space in your system's memory? The firmware gives you the option of transferring stuff to SD card on the spot. You can do this manually, or you can access a wizard which offers three simple options: move channels that are located on the screens to the right of the main screen, move channels that take up a lot of blocks, and move channels that take up few blocks. Select one of the options, and the system searches a bit, then comes up with a list of software that it will move. The list can't be edited, unfortunately.

Coinciding with this feature, the Wii Shopping Channel has been given a nice functionality update which should aid in memory management. When buying software from the shop now, you can choose a save location, either internal memory or SD. That's right, direct saving to SD!

Selecting to save to SD from the shop menu.

After just a few play sessions, I'm impressed with Nintendo's memory solution so far. Starting up a downloaded game, especially a low capacity Virtual Console title, should be a much more pleasant experience from now on.

There's another Wii Shopping Channel "feature" of sorts with the new update, although it doesn't have anything to do with memory. Nintendo has started up a campaign to apparently get more people to connect to the internet with the Wii . When you help someone connect their Wii to the internet, both parties get 500 Wii Points. To get the points, each user must input the other user's Wii number into their Wii Shopping Channel. The deal only applies to the first 20 people you help. After that, you'll stop getting points. That's still 10,000 free points, so start teaching!

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