What Is Bricking the Wii U and Why Does It Matter?

    Rubbing salt on an old wound.

    The Wii U has had a rough life. What was supposed to be the grand successor to the Wii ended up being a huge commercial failure for Nintendo. As someone who owns a Wii U, I have an appreciation for it despite its shortcomings. It’s sad to see the misfortune it’s had, and that misfortune has not ended. Something is bricking Wii U consoles and it could cause many systems to suffer a premature demise. 

    What exactly is going on here though? If you own a Wii U, could you be at risk of losing it? Fortunately, we have a pretty good idea of what’s causing the bricking of Wii U consoles. Unfortunately, it’s not a problem that can be easily fixed for most people. Once your Wii U encounters a certain error, there’s a very good chance it’s not coming back from the dead. 

    What is Bricking Wii U Consoles?

    Wii U Gamepad with a Mario question block inside it.

    The likely culprit that will cause the death of your Wii U is a storage issue. Unlike other consoles at the time, the Wii U doesn’t use a hard drive. Instead, the console makes use of a NAND flash storage solution. In short, NAND flash storage devices contain no moving parts, unlike a hard drive. It stores data by holding electric charges that instruct what data to store. While this method of storage is less susceptible to wear and tear than a hard drive, it still doesn’t last forever. 

    NAND flash devices can come in different forms, such as SSDs, SD cards, and USB drives. These can all differ greatly in quality, with NVMe SSDs being the fastest storage solution on the market right now. On the other hand, the Wii U makes use of an eMMC to store data. While it may make use of NAND flash, it is far less high-tech than the SSDs of the PS5 and Series X|S. Unfortunately, the NAND flash used in the Wii U is prone to corruption, which will result in the console bricking. 

    It seems that without power, the NAND flash may quickly degrade. The problem can’t easily be fixed because this is most likely a hardware issue, not a software one. If you see error 160-0103, that’s it for your Wii U’s eMMC. It’s unfortunate because even though eMMC storage is generally not very high-quality, it should probably last longer than this. This suggests that something about the production of these eMMCs was faulty.

    What Can Be Done?

    Wii U Gamepad with Yoshi, Mario, Pikachu, Princess Peach, and Link Amiibos

    You will likely be unable to resurrect your Wii U after the NAND flash gets corrupted. However, there are some steps you can take to avoid this outcome before it occurs. The easiest measure you can take to avoid this is to simply power on your Wii U and use it every now and then. This will ensure that your Wii U won’t die a premature death. However, what if you don’t want to keep using the console on a consistent basis? 

    There is also the option to install custom firmware and create a NAND backup. This process will get a little complicated and may be offputting to those who are uncomfortable with tinkering. Despite this, it may be worth seriously considering if you want your Wii U to have the longest life possible. Unfortunately, there isn’t much more you can do to prevent the NAND from bricking your Wii U.

    Why Does the Bricking of Wii U Consoles Matter?

    Bricked Wii U

    The Wii U is far from the first time a console has come with a manufacturing defect. For example, if you buy an original Xbox or still own one, you will want to open up the console and check if it has a clock capacitor inside it. This clock capacitor will eventually leak onto the motherboard and will potentially kill your Xbox. I bought an original Xbox to tinker with and play the first two Project Gotham Racing games well over a year ago. When I opened up the console, the clock capacitor had already started leaking, but it was easy enough to remove it.

    The issue is that there will be many more of these consoles sitting in storage that are doomed to die thanks to this defect. This will inevitably hurt the availability of these consoles in the future. It is no different with the Wii U. The NAND corruption issue will make functional Wii U consoles more difficult to procure. It’s too bad that people who are interested in picking up older consoles might have a harder time with this one in the somewhat near future. 

    As much as I hate to think about it, all hardware will fail eventually. This is undeniable, so why try and delay the inevitable? As someone who highly values preservation methods such as emulation, I still believe the original hardware experience should be preserved for as long as possible. In fact, it can greatly help illustrate how accurate a particular emulator is. This issue presents an unfortunate obstacle to game preservation.

    Remembering the Wii U

    Xenoblade Chronicles X official artwork

    With customers no longer being able to make purchases through the Wii U eShop very soon, it’s sad to see how the Wii U has ended up. While a large portion of games exclusive to the system has now been ported to Wii U, there are a few notable exceptions. The most unfortunate of these is the excellent Xenoblade Chronicles X. While the entire mainline series can be experienced on Nintendo Switch, it’s a shame to see this spin-off stuck on a doomed console. 

    Not too long ago, I wrote a piece about what defines a “retro” console. Now, I don’t think the Wii U is what anyone would define as “retro”. However, I am concerned about how quickly it may be forgotten. I believe that bad games deserve preservation, and the same goes for “bad” consoles as well. That’s not to say that I think that the Wii U is a bad console. I am quite fond of the time I’ve had with it in the past. 

    The Wii U was a console with some intriguing ideas that had a poor marketing campaign. The Switch would go on to evolve the idea of a hybrid home console/handheld, but the Wii U has interesting features of its own. While many games did not take great advantage of two screens, it could be neat on the odd occasion. Nintendo should have done a better job of making it clear what exactly the Wii U was, but hopefully, it can be remembered. 

    Itch has a strong passion for PC gaming and retro consoles (especially the Dreamcast). From Melty Blood: Actress Again to Forza Horizon, he will play just about anything that catches his eye. Ever since playing Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit as a young child, he has been in love with the medium of video games and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

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