Microsoft and Sony have made great strides to turn their gaming systems into entertainment platforms. Xbox 360 got Netflix then the PS3 got Netflix, and then the PlayStation Network got Hulu and then Xbox Live got Hulu. For years they've traded services, mirroring each other nearly every step of the way while the Wii lagged behind, getting everything late. Yesterday, Nintendo finally unveiled its formal rebuttal to Sony and Microsoft's services: the interesting (albeit unfortunately-named) Nintendo TVii.
And, of course, the internet immediately began thinking of ways to make fun of the service, saying it was Nintendo struggling to play catch-up to its competitors, or that it was a worthless feature, or that it simply wasn't all that impressive. These people, though, are missing the point completely. Nintendo TVii isn’t Nintendo slapping media services into the Wii U--it’s Nintendo actually turning the Wii U into a complete, potentially superior service.
When it comes to being a media service, and strictly a media service, it looks like there's a good chance that it'll be the best one. Being able to use the GamePad’s screen instead of the television to navigate menus puts it ahead of Sony and Microsoft, and the fact that it’s more of a stand-alone program than what’s found on Xbox or PlayStation should make it easier to use for most--especially those uninterested in sorting through menus or searching through Xbox Live’s thousands of purchasable videos on Bing. This, alone, makes it stand out, but where it differs most is in what it actually does, and what it can be used for.
Once inside Nintendo TVii, you're looking not at Nintendo's version of Xbox Live, but its take on Roku or Google TV. Searching for a movie or a television show brings up results from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Wikipedia, and IMDB. Clicking on an episode of Breaking Bad will allow you to look at the show's Wiki or IMDB page, finding out more information before digging in. But it’s more than just streaming options--more important is that it also shows your cable provider's results, as well as giving you access to your Tivo.
Watch our interview with Nintendo about the feature
With this seemingly small addition, Nintendo TVii goes from media hub to super crazy universal remote, allowing you to DVR things with TiVo (and, hopefully, other DVR services in the future), tag movies as favorites on Netflix, and even set up different favorites. Having different profiles for each person adds a social element that none of these other systems have, letting you personalize your experience further by favoriting television series or movies without needing to make additional Xbox Live or PlayStation Network accounts. Forget trying to find your favorite shows on Comcast's archaic menus--my experience with the GamePad and Nintendo TVii made the process of finding shows to watch a breeze, truly updating the entertainment experience.
The ability to answer polls on the GamePad while watching is revolutionary in concept. Seriously. Sure, it might not be all that exciting for you, but imagining what effects it might have on the average TV watcher is incredible. It seems silly to vote on which character's halloween costume on Modern Family was the best, but imagine voting on a singer in American Idol or a person on Survivor right from your remote, or being able to follow everyone tweeting about a show as it happens.
Though this isn't implemented yet, it's easy to see some awesome, interactive elements being added in to shows. Seeing a football score ticker, or being able to watch replays on the screen would add usefulness to the service, turning it into a two-screen experience without needing to search around for websites to complain about things on. Sure, many of these elements could be completed by using an iPad or a laptop, but neither also functions as a remote for the TV.
So be snarky if you want, and scoff if you feel that's best. But, the next time you scroll past a dozen advertisements as you make your way into the Xbox 360's awful redesigned Netflix UI, remember that the Wii U is right around the corner, and it's about to become the best universal remote you'll ever own. Oh, and it'll eventually play Bayonetta 2, so there's that.
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