Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Netflix says Wiiiiiiii!

I was reading the twitter feed for Xbox Live's Major Nelson and learned that Netflix, the popular mail order DVD rental and broadband streaming service, will be available soon on the Nintendo Wii.  This came to me as quite a shock and pleasant suprise.  I have been enjoying Netflix's streaming service since it launched on the Xbox 15 months ago.  Then Xbox was the only gaming console to support the service, later Sony's PS3 adopted the netflix brand.  I only know two people who own a PS3, but I know at least a dozen with a Wii, so I am excited for them considering many of them pointed out the netflix feature as one that especially leaned them toward other consoles.

On the "shock" side of the announcement, I was amazed that the little Wii, which blocked playback of standard video DVDs, was not only offering the streaming video service, but had the capability to do so.  There are some caveats however.  A broadband connection is required, no HD video will be available and you will need to load a disc (a sort of Netflix game disc) to watch movies in your queue.  No on-board software.

The required boradband connection is not a suprise.  That bandwidth is needed to stream video regardless of whether you're using Netflix's own set-top streaming unit or a gaming console.  It's also expected that HD video will not be an option since the Wii does not output in an HD enviornment nor is the processor capeable of decoding a signal that complex.  I don't own a Wii but my understanding is that the storage space available would not be heafty enough to keep the software necessary to run the Netflix streaming on the console, which is a reasonalbe assumption as to why Wii users will need to pop in a Netflix disc to use the service. 

For those who are already satisfied with the video and graphics abilites of the Wii, I can imagine they would be equally happy with the quiality of the movies and TV shows coming down the pipe with this service.  I can't get over the fact that the console that was devoted to gaming and wasn't going to mulit-task is trying to multi-task.  You can't play a DVD with the Wii, but you need to play a disc to stream video.  Ahh the irony.  According the the New York Times article which apparently broke this story, the netflix adapatation is sparking speculation that an HD Wii is in the offing.  I will be interested to see if a new console will bring more features than just a 720p (or higher) output upgrade.  When you've got the most popular gaming console, the world is at your feet really.

I'm stoked for my friends who enjoy thier Wii's and would likely enjoy streaming video on them as well.   I wish I could convert them to Xbox, I think they would find netflix, gaming and a number of other services more satisfying and brilliant in HD.  For now, chalk one up for gamers in America and behold the wide acceptance of video gaming in our society.  

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