Nintendo Wants To Take Over Your Living Room

Today's Nintendo news bonanza taught us two things: Nintendo has finally learned how to use the internet, and Nintendo is using this newfound knowledge that the internet exists not just to support games but to try to take over your living room. It's one hell of a gamble.

Let's flash back to 2006. When Nintendo first released the Wii, it was banking on two things: its robust library of first-party titles and its innovative motion controls. The system had some neat gimmicks, like that weird email replacement that made your console flash blue, but it was hardly an entertainment centre. You couldn't even use the Wii to play DVDs.

This waggle-only strategy worked, of course. The Wii became the hottest thing since sliced koopa. But what worked three or four years ago won't work in 2012. Today we expect more from our game consoles. We want them to stream shows. We want them to be entertainment boxes.

Nintendo's take on this whole entertainment centre thing is Nintendo TVii, a service that's far easier to watch than it is to spell. Nintendo TVii will let you use the GamePad as a hybrid remote-controller-tablet to consume all the television, movies and sports you can feast your hungry eyes on. And it'll ship free with every Wii U.

I got a chance to spend some time with Nintendo TVii today, and although the reps wouldn't let me physically touch the system for some reason, I did get to see it in live action. It works well. Everything runs smoothly, the interface is intuitive, and it seems to deliver on what it's promised. (The system was slightly laggy, but that could have just been the demo unit.)

According to Nintendo's Casey Lewis, Nintendo TVii will support all of the major cable networks in the US. If you want to run Netflix or Hulu, you'll have to have a Netflix or Hulu subscription. If you want to record shows, you need TiVo or a DVR. But right out of the box you'll be able to use the Wii U to keep track of your favourite shows and see when they're airing, Lewis told me. So you can use the Wii U's GamePad as a remote control and keep track of all of your favourite cable shows.

Cool, right? How many other game consoles let you interact with live TV? Nintendo TVii was built in collaboration with the folks who made i.TV, a program that lets you do some similar things on your phone or tablet. But it ain't available on the Xbox or PlayStation, and even if this sort of thing is supported on next-gen consoles, that won't be for at least another year.

But the coolest part of this system is something that isn't available anywhere else (at least until the other guys copy it). The coolest part of this system, at least in theory, is the way it lets you connect to other people.

Nintendo TVii will let you recommend movies and shows to your friends. It'll let you see what's popular among the people you like (and the people you dislike, but tolerate on your friends lists anyway). It will integrate your Twitter account and let you voice live commentary among your social groups as events happen, which is one of the most appealing things about social networks like Twitter.

Can't you imagine tuning into an episode of Breaking Bad on your TV while you scroll through tweeted reactions on the GamePad that's sitting on your lap? Or watching the Super Bowl while commenting on the GamePad with your friends?

Since the Wii U will know what you're watching, that second screen could help supplement the experience in ways that a laptop or tablet can't. (And although Microsoft has promised similar things with SmartGlass, we haven't seen anything like this just yet.)

There's a lot of potential there. What if your GamePad could update your individual fantasy football scores as you watch games live on TV? What if you could video chat with your friends as you all watch the same episode of Game of Thrones? What if you could watch Netflix on your GamePad while playing Mario on your TV, or vice versa?

As Mr Totilo has pointed out, Nintendo isn't just taking on other game companies: they're after Facebook too. It's building an ambitious social network that also aims to be your all-in-one media centre for TV, movies, sports and video games. Nintendo wants you to buy a Wii U and convince all of your friends to buy Wii Us, which could be a challenge. It wants you to use the Wii U not just to play, but to watch, interact and communicate.

Nintendo is going all in, and there are still lots of questions left to ask. How will the MiiVerse connect your friends, your games and your shows? Are there friend codes? Will the console be ubiquitous enough that it's worth it to take and give movie recommendations on your Wii U, rather than on your PC? Will the Wii U's first- and third-party games be so compelling, the social features so well-integrated that we feel absolutely obligated to play them with our friends? Will Nintendo do a better job of distributing and discounting Virtual Console games?

This sort of move is a gamble, and that $350/$430 price point doesn't help the Wii U's case. I don't think Nintendo TVii will sell many systems by itself. But for families looking for an entertainment device that both plays Mario games and lets everyone watch their favourite shows, Wii U is positioning itself as the only living room device they could ever need. That's a good thing.


Comments

    wii u cant play blu-rays, not interested

      Yeah thats a pretty big omission honestly.
      Besides the next gen Xbox will have Windows Glass (or whatever it is). So fingers crossed that will have the same functionality but on a tablet.

        Seriously? Why is that? Just like DVDs, bluray players are pretty damn cheap now days.. Ive got 4 in my house alone, and I barely use one!! I could understand if its like "Hey im watching this" and tweet stuff about the movie, or the console shows to other friends your playing that movie.. but honestly - not needed. Do we really want the price to be higher? Cause I can guarantee you Nintendo would pass on the royalty fee's it has to pay to sony and everyone else to get it in there.

        Not to mention, most people who want a bluray at this point - probably already have one.

      If it can play your standard batch of .avi and mp4 formats from the usb storage it accepts you'll never need bluray. I haven't bought a physical disk in years.

      No floppy disc, I'm out!!

      :P

      On another note, I think Nintendo is aiming to satisfy its loyal fans that the Wii U will be enough for next gen... Meaning no second console purchase required next gen. They have a solid console and a great list of titles.. This is the push people have been waiting for from Nintendo and we don't have details on heaps of unannounced games.

    Nintendo want to take over my living room? They haven't deserved space in mine for half a decade.

    Will it connect to my pc and play content off that? If not this will go not be usefull to me

    I would buy a console for the games, not all this extra junk that my pc can do better and faster

    Obviously I haven't used the device myself, so maybe this is just a bad article that isn't getting its point across very well, but I'm really struggling to understand the benefits this article is trying to push? I mean... we can already read our friends tweets or chat with them while we watch a show using our phones/tables.

    Netflix / Hulu? It'd raise eyebrows if these services WEREN'T available on Wii U since they're on just about every other internet-connected device on the planet.

    "Keep track of your favourite shows and when they're airing"... like a TV guide? If you can't actually set the device to record those shows then what's the point? You already have the ability to keep track of your shows on your DVR / Foxtel IQ or whatever, and they'll record them for you, too.

    "What if you could video chat with your friends as you all watch the same episode of Game of Thrones" - why on earth would you do that? I don't even want to talk to anybody on the phone when I'm watching Game of Thrones... why would I want to look at a video chat screen instead of the actual show I'm trying to watch?

    "What if you could watch Netflix on your GamePad while playing Mario on your TV, or vice versa?" Again - why would you want to? How are you going to play Mario if you're busy watching a movie on the other screen? Or how are you going to follow the movie if you're busy playing Mario?

    This stuff doesn't sound anywhere near as innovative, exciting, useful or even interesting as the article seems to be trying to make it seem.

    Nintendo is essentially trying to make people feel more connected to the internet while playing on a console. When I play Xbox I feel sort of left out of the hive mind internet... I feel diconnected from global news, gaming updates & social networking.

    I can't believe i'm saying it..... but I think this could potentially work out. Before today's announcement I had serious doubts about Nintendo failing.... but the tablet controller seems to have found a nice comfortable spot for the time being. Browsing the internet while playing a game can become very helpful because it create a comforting thought knowing the internet is literally at my finger tips while gaming.

      I guess that's what I was trying to figure out in my comment above, though - how's that any different from having your smartphone / tablet next to you? Especially if your game is actually using that second screen then you kind of lose that benefit anyway. I usually have my phone nearby anyway, so if I want to look something up then I can just do it on that.

    I've had a Play TV since I got my PS3, so this is not exactly a new thing.

    What if your gamepad/WiiU would just leave you the f*ck alone while you watch TV or a movie, in peace and quiet so you actually enjoy it. Now that would be real innovation.

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation
    however I in finding this matter to be actually one thing which I
    feel I might never understand. It sort of feels too complicated and extremely wide for
    me. I am having a look ahead to your subsequent submit,
    I will attempt to get the hold of it!

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now