Sony and Microsoft have gone out of their way to add features to turn their videogame consoles into all-in-one set-top boxes, and there's more on the way. And now Nintendo has gone beyond just offering a Netflix or Hulu Plus app for the Wii by creating Nintendo TVii for the upcoming Wii U console. Nintendo TVii will be available right out of the box on the Wii U on launch day, and turns your Wii U GamePad into a universal remote that they hope will be the only one you use.
You can choose between TV, movies, and sports, with each one offering up recommendations based on your favorites, or allowing you to search for a topic. For instance, type in baseball, and you'll get a list of upcoming TV shows and movies on Netflix featuring baseball. Oh, and naturally, any actual baseball games in the sports tab. You tap on the icon for the program you want to see, and it will bring up more information. For instance, with a TV series, it will offer a list of episodes. A movie will give you a synopsis and a Rotten Tomatoes score (and the ability to watch a trailer on the GamePad screen). And sports will list any currently ongoing games (with current scores) and a quick tap of the icon will take you to it. Also, as you use the app, it will recognize what teams you like, and prioritize the list accordingly. Actually selecting a TV show or movie then brings up your various options for viewing it, whether it's streaming it from your Hulu Plus or Netflix subscription, renting it from Amazon, viewing it live on TV, or from your DVR.
While watching a movie or TV show, you'll see what they call Moments, which resembles a Facebook timeline layout, featuring highlights shown in stills with captions. Joining a show in progress, you can even scroll back through the Moments to catch up. This is where the interactivity comes into play, with the ability to comment via Facebook, Twitter or Miiverse or participate in polls about the content you're viewing. And while watching sports, you'll get a graphic of the field of play with all the details on scores, players and plays, while also being able to check other games in progress.
It's sort of fun that each person in the household can create their own profile, so loading up your Mii brings up your particular favorites and customizes the recommendations to you. And if you select "Family," it suggests things everyone would enjoy. You can have up to 12 profiles, but that would be a massive household. I'm not surprised that it works with TiVo out of the box, but I'm told that they're still negotiating with various other providers like Comcast, Direct TV and others, so that the DVR access will function with them as well.
I'm really not sure about the interactivity elements, although I guess it would be easier for me to Tweet from the GamePad than picking up my phone. The thing that I got oddly excited about, though, was the fact that while watching a program, you have instant access to cast information, the IMDb or Wikipedia tabs. It makes playing "Who is that?" a lot easier since you don't have to go on the computer or grab your phone to look it up. Obviously, Nintendo TVii will continue to develop even after its release, so it'll be fascinating to see how it expands and whether the interactive elements take off or fall flat. But it's free to use, so I'll definitely be trying it out when I get my Wii U in November!