Nintendo TVii for Wii U Hands-On
Nintendo TVii is now available for the Wii U. Announced in September and suffering a minor delay last month, TVii is Nintendo’s latest effort to pry control of the living room away from Microsoft and Sony, whose respective consoles have become the centralized entertainment hub for millions of consumers. In many ways, Nintendo TVii seeks to succeed where Logitech’s Revue with Google TV failed — unifying streaming and broadcast video services into one cohesive user experience with relevant web-derived data and social media built-in. With game support slowly ramping up, could TVii be the Wii U’s unexpected “killer app?” We go hands-on to find out.
Nintendo TVii’s installation process is painless. In fact, there is no installation process. If you downloaded Nintendo’s most recent update to the Wii U, TVii is already baked into the system’s operating system. Now, when you click on the TVii icon on your gamepad, the software boots up immediately. When you start up the software for the first time, TVii asks a few basic questions about your location, which cable or satellite provider you subscribe to, what movies, TV shows, and networks you like, as well as what your favorite sports team are. Aside from the obvious configuration purposes, these steps allow the app to personalize shortcuts to your tastes. And really, that’s the basis of TVii: your favorite media, presented in the simplest possible way.
Your favorite media, presented in the simplest possible way.
Instead of broadcast schedules and layers upon layers of menus, TVii displays TV shows, movies, and sporting events as large, high-resolution cover art. You can search or browse through favorites, recommended selections, and what’s airing right now. If you find a particular item you want to watch, just tap on the icon and TVii will tell you whether it’s available on Hulu Plus, Amazon VOD, or currently airing or airing soon on your cable or satellite service. Assuming you subscribe to some or all of the services, you have free rein to pick whichever is most convenient for you. Unlike some Google TV devices, which require hardware integration with your cable box, TVii uses online programming data and the gamepad’s integrated IR sensor to find and tune to the appropriate channels. A cable or satellite receiver is required to access live broadcast television, though it’s unclear if the app can or will support content from provider on-demand services.
What’s even more interesting is the “second screen” experience. By pulling information and media from the web, TVii knows what you’re watching and can surface relevant information as you watch, like cast trivia, scores and player stats for sports, and more. With Miiverse integration and hooks into Facebook and Twitter, TVii also adds a compelling social experience to watching movies and TV. Now, users can share comments about a sports game, film, or TV episode as they watch, providing realtime interaction with friends also viewing, regardless of whether they’re using a Wii U, their smartphone, or a tablet.
While the initial implementation is still somewhat limited, the potential for greater use of the gamepad’s display is extensive. Next year, Nintendo will expand the service to include support for Netflix and TiVo, allowing users to access content recorded to their DVR. With help from co-developer i.TV, TVii could become a regularly evolving product for Nintendo.
But will it be an Xbox Live or PlayStation Network killer? There’s no simple answer. For one, Nintendo TVii is aimed at a much more casual audience, whereas Microsoft and Sony’s offerings are clearly intended for consuming media at a high volume. Nintendo also has a long way to go before the Wii U catches up to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sales. Still, TVii adds notable value to the console as a versatile entertainment device. Nintendo TVii is available in North America and Japan now with a launch in Europe planned for sometime next year.
Scott Lowe is IGN’s guru of Tech. He enjoys coffee, burritos, and moonlit walks. You can follow him on MyIGN Scott-IGN and on Twitter @ScottLowe.
By Scott Lowe