Nintendo has more than just videogames in mind with the Wii U, its next-generation console, which goes on sale Nov. 18 in North America. The company unveiled Thursday a new initiative dubbed Nintendo TVii aimed at improving discoverability for both over-the-air and online programming.
“It has always been our goal to maximize consumer value with what we include in the hardware purchase,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, president and chief operating officer of Nintendo of America. “It’s not just a high-definition console that will change the way people play. Wii U is the only game console with a seamlessly connected, fully integrated second screen.”
Nintendo TVii is a service akin to Microsoft’s efforts in program discoverability on the Xbox 360. Users will be able to search programming from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and live TV — as well as content on their TiVo DVR. Unlike with the Xbox, though, families can set individual profiles for each member, allowing each to pick favorites — and allowing their friends to make recommendations. Other social elements include polls and live discussion of programs.
All of these will be viewable through the Wii U’s tablet-like controller, while program choices are shown on the living room TV. Users who would rather watch a movie instead of a television show will be able to read reviews on the Gamepad and watch trailers there, freeing up the TV. And sports fans will be able to instantly see the scores of important ongoing games, with users’ favorite teams at the front of the list.
Users will also be able to use online resources like IMDb and Wikipedia to research shows and the actors who appear in them. The service will be available free to all U.S. and Canadian purchasers of the Wii U and will launch concurrent with the console.
Nintendo plans to launch two versions of the new system. The Basic Wii U, which costs $300, will come with the console system, a tablet-like gamepad, an HDI cable and 8 GB of memory. For $50 more, the Deluxe version also includes a charging cradle for the gamepad, stands for the system and a copy of Nintendoland. The Deluxe version also offers four times as much internal memory.
Because the Wii U’s gamepad also acts as a remote control for the TV, Nintendo did not need to secure agreements with cable and satellite companies. It is planning to negotiate with them, though, in hopes of integrating their DVRs into Nintendo TVii’s search results.
Nintendo has not historically focused on non-gaming entertainment, but officials say that hasn’t stopped people from using its consoles to watch programs.
“It really stuns me that the public facts around video consumption on the Wii have been underestimated,” said Zack Fountain, Nintendo’s director of network business. “I see this as a natural progression for Nintendo.”