Nintendo has announced that a Wii Speak Channel will launch this November. Think of it as “Skype for the living room.”

Nintendo held a media summit here in San Francisco yesterday, and while the biggest buzz was centered around holiday games and the upcoming DSi, I’m way more excited by the announcement that a Wii Speak Channel will launch this November. I’m calling it “Skype for the living room.”

The Wii Speak peripheral, a multidirectional “community microphone” with a reception radius of up to 12 feet, was mentioned this summer, but only in relation to the upcoming online game Animal Crossing: City Folk. Now Nintendo tells us they’re also going to sell Wii Speak separately, and that it’ll come with its own non-game Wii Channel, where you can communicate simultaneously with up to three other Wii owners. (Assuming they also have Wii Speak, and you’ve all exchanged friend codes.) You’ll also be able to use the channel to leave voice mails and exchange image files.

The reason I’ve dubbed the Wii Speak Channel Skype for the living room, however, is because it’s a VoIP communication device that doesn’t depend on a computer or a headset mic. If it works as billed, it could be used not only to make free person-to-person calls, but to hold conversations between entire rooms full of people. Of course the Nintendo exec who briefed me kept emphasizing the gameplay possibilities, and those are nice. But considering the tens of millions of people around the world, from every walk of life, who already own the Wii (it’s forecast to be in 30 percent of all American homes by 2011), the Wii Speak Channel has the potential to become a popular communication alternative over the next decade. Throw in a large enough networking effect, and it could even wind up as pervasive as Skype itself. That’s on the highly optimistic end, of course; at the very least, it’ll be a fun-and-games speakerphone for Wii owners.

Image: Geek.com.

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  1. Problem with the Wii is its “Social Networking” the friend codes are a pain in the backside if they make the experience easier then this thing might take off and could be great for family conference calls across the globe but Nintendo needs to get its Networking right first .

  2. So this is a fancy VOIP speaker phone, except you need Wii for it to work ?

  3. Wagner James Au Friday, October 3, 2008

    Matt– yeah, good point, I thought about that, Wii friend codes are definitely a pain as architected now. Then again, looking up a contact in Skype can be almost as irksome, IMO.

    James– pretty much, yeah. I notice a lot of tech companies already have a Wii in their rec room, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they start holding more teleconferencing meetings there.

  4. Wii Speak: la consola como comunicador » El Blog de Enrique Dans Saturday, October 4, 2008

    [...] El anuncio de Nintendo durante el E3 de crear un Wii Speak Channel asociado a su periférico Wii Speak me ha parecido una idea muy buena: el Wii Speak es un micrófono omnidireccional que se conecta a la consola y permite captar sonidos de toda la habitación en un radio de unos tres metros y medio. Se vende separadamente, y cuesta unos treinta dólares, pero incluirá además la descarga gratuita del canal Wii Speak, mediante el cual podrán conectarse hasta cuatro consolas que hayan intercambiado Friend Codes, y utilizarlo como un canal de voz gratuito entre ellos.  Al utilizarlo, aparecerán los Mii de los usuarios correspondientes en la pantalla, y podrán comunicarse de viva voz, dejar mensajes o ser utilizados con otras aplicaciones, como por ejemplo para compartir fotos y explicarlas. Lo he visto en GigaOM. [...]

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