Nintendo Wii U gets faster firmware: Way paved for Virtual Console

Nintendo has pushed out a new firmware update for its Wii U, giving the console a new lick of speed among other things, while promising the imminent arrival of Wii U Panorama View and Virtual Console. The new firmware, available today, addresses one of the most common criticisms of the Wii U – its sluggish reactions – by shaving time off boot-up, application launching and closing, and switching between titles.

The new version also makes it quicker to go from software to Nintendo's Miiverse, answering another complaint gamers had about the system. Nintendo has added a shortcut within the startup process, too, whereby pressing and holding the B button on the GamePad while the Wii U logo is shown at boot automatically jumps to the Wii Menu.

Meanwhile, there's background support for game and app installations from the eShop, and if you shut down the console while a download is in progress, the Wii U will wait to turn off until it's done. There's also priority control over multiple downloads, allowing gamers to choose which gets completed first.

Data management has also been addressed, with the option to copy saved files between USB storage, and when you power the Wii U on you get a clear indication of which account is logged in and active. Finally, there are some minor tweaks, such as a control over TV screen size output in the settings page, and an undo/redo control for when you're creating a Miiverse character.

However, aside from a new turn of speed, the new firmware also paves the way for some of Nintendo's more hotly-anticipated changes: Virtual Console and Wii U Panorama View. They've been waiting in the wings until the console could support them, offering downloadable classic titles from $4.99 to $8.99, and virtual exploration of famous locations, respectively. Panorama View will offer free demo previews, with each full experience – which will include carnivals and bus tours of significant cities – priced at $2.

Nintendo really needs the Wii U to start bedding in, with sales slumping in the first calendar quarter of 2013, and leading to the Japanese company missing its already-lowered sales expectations. It was confirmed that Nintendo would have a more low-key E3 than in recent years, ceding the stage to Sony and Microsoft who each have next-gen consoles of their own to detail.