For the record, when Nintendo’s 3DS update dropped a few weeks ago, I had no problems pulling it down, connecting online, linking up with my Nintendo Network ID and going about my business.
This morning, not so much. I haven’t picked up my 3DS since last weekend, but when I powered it up a few minutes ago and tried to sign into the eShop, the halo of strobing lights cycled for four or five minutes before displaying an error code and a “please try again later” message.
On its U.S. support page, Nintendo confirms the eShop “is experiencing service disruptions.” The company claims the problem is overwhelming demand for the service and says it’s “working to address these disruptions as quickly as possible.”
The recent system update added the ability to link a Nintendo Network ID with a Nintendo 3DS family system. This has become a popular feature and the number of users creating a Nintendo Network ID on their Nintendo 3DS and accessing the Nintendo eShop has been greater than anticipated. Because of this, there may be times when some users will experience service disruptions to the Nintendo eShop. If you are having problems accessing the Nintendo eShop, we ask that you try again at a later time.
This year wasn’t the first — and certainly won’t be the last — year we’ve seen company servers taken down by unanticipated consumer demand (or, for that matter, hackers simulating as much through saturation-based service assaults, the principle being the same). The spotlight’s been on Healthcare.gov since it launched, because hey, political football, but the truth is that demand-related catastrophes impacted all sorts of majors in 2013, from Sony and Microsoft’s respective online services when the Playstation 4 and Xbox One arrived, to Rockstar when it launched Grand Theft Auto Online on Grand Theft Auto V‘s heels (the game didn’t work as intended for weeks). Wherever you have something a bunch of people want to use, and it’s an online something, you can pretty much expect access to be sporadic or glitch-riddled until demand evens out.
Why don’t companies build server farms capacious enough to accommodate demand? Because these spikes are anomalies in the longterm life of a service, and building permanent solutions is cost-prohibitive (it’s basically asymmetric overkill once demand settles down). You’d think companies might construct temporarily mongo-sized clusters, say leasing performance they just divest themselves of later, but whatever they’re doing today, it’s not working.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect them to square this particular circle, or that glitchy launches are okay, but for now, I expect we’ll see this sort of regular irregularity continue through 2014 and beyond.